Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Three things we learned watching the Capitals’ exhibition game

Special teams, physicality and Alex Ovechkin will play large roles in Monday's round-robin matchup against the Lightning.
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) breaks past Carolina Hurricanes center Ryan Dzingel (18) during the second period of an exhibition game Wednesday in Toronto.
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) breaks past Carolina Hurricanes center Ryan Dzingel (18) during the second period of an exhibition game Wednesday in Toronto. [ NATHAN DENETTE | Associated Press ]
Published Jul. 29, 2020
Updated Jul. 30, 2020

The Lightning and Capitals will face off in their first round-robin game Monday at 4 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Both teams won their Wednesday exhibition games, with the Lightning defeating the Panthers 5-0 and the Capitals defeating the Hurricanes 3-2.

Here are three things we learned about the Capitals from their first game back since the pause.

Special teams will play a role

Against Carolina, the Capitals went 1-for-5 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill.

Like the Lightning (which went 1-for-3), Washington saw little success on its power-play. However, both teams saw greater success on the penalty kill (the Lightning went 4-for-4).

Tampa Bay’s top power-play unit likely will be missing Steven Stamkos against the Capitals, but Alex Ovechkin will be a mainstay on Washington’s No. 1 power play.

Related: Lightning’s fan-signed glass installed in Scotiabank Arena

In addition to Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Dmitry Orlov, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jakub Vrana and John Carlson made appearances on the Capitals’ power-play units.

Without Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman Wednesday, the Lightning experimented more with their special-teams lineups. Tyler Johnson and Mikhail Sergachev took their places on the top power-play unit, joining Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.

Similar to the Lightning’s contest against Florida, the Capitals had to fight off a 5-on-3 power play. Washington, however, allowed Carolina to score, where the Lightning killed off both penalties.

Ovechkin is still very much Ovechkin

Even after a four-month pause, Ovechkin is still the same player everyone has always known him to be.

The Capitals’ captain scored two goals against Carolina. His first was Washington’s sole power-play goal, from his office inside the left faceoff circle. His second, from the same spot, gave the Caps a 3-1 lead.

In May, Ovechkin, who had 48 goals and 19 assists during the regular season, tied Boston’s David Pastrnak for the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top scorers.

Physicality won’t be an issue

Washington Capitals center Nic Dowd (26) hits Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jordan Martinook (48) during the first period Wednesday in Toronto.
Washington Capitals center Nic Dowd (26) hits Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jordan Martinook (48) during the first period Wednesday in Toronto. [ NATHAN DENETTE | Associated Press ]

Four months of pent-up energy apparently can create a lot of commotion when players return to the ice for the first time.

Wednesday’s matchup between Carolina and Washington was no exception, as the Capitals delivered 24 hits.

The Lightning had their own physical game against the Panthers, registering 28 hits. Erik Cernak got into a scrum with Florida’s Josh Brown, and Mikhail Sergachev dropped the gloves against former Lightning center Brian Boyle.

It wasn’t the first time either of those players got into it with the opposition. Cernak took on Washington’s Tom Wilson earlier in the season — losing a tooth in the process — and Sergachev went up against Montreal’s Shea Weber in March.

While Washington’s game didn’t have scrums like the Lightning’s, the matchup against the team that knocked the Capitals out of the 2019 playoffs was physical, nonetheless.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.