In terms of the standings, every game in the regular season matters the same. A win is worth two points. But there are some games that matter more than others and Wednesday's 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning felt like an important victory for the Capitals
"That was a huge two points for us," Evgeny Kuznetsov said.
Washington entered Wednesday's game coming off two losses by a combined score of 11-2. They had lost three of their last four games at home, the lines are influx and the starting goalie job may be up for grabs yet again. As if that wasn't bad enough, it was the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning coming to town on Wednesday.
But this time, the Caps were up to the task.
"At the end of the day we play for each other a lot today so that was a fun game to watch and play," Kuznetsov said.
A Washington team that has struggled at the start of games scored the first two goals and held a 3-1 lead after the first period. Ilya Samsonov, in his first start since March 25, made a number of key saves including a stick save on a 2-on-1 opportunity by Nikita Kucherov that would have tied the game at 2.
"[Tampa Bay] had lost a few in a row so you knew that they'd be ready and they'd be sharp," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought it was a good start by our guys, a good first period, good game."
A team that has struggled defensively made sure Tampa Bay was never able to tie it after Washinton took the early lead. An offense that has not been producing of late scored four goals against one of the top goalies in the world. And a team that cannot seem to win at home earned a massive victory in front of the home crowd at Capital One Arena.
Wednesday's win does not necessarily mean the team is back on track and all of its problems are solved. Laviolette still has to find the right line combinations to fit newly acquired Marcus Johansson and Johan Larsson into the lineup. A starting goalie needs to take control of the crease. The Caps need to figure out how to win at home and play with some consistency and they need to do it all in the next 12 games before a likely first-round matchup against the offensive buzzsaw that is the Florida Panthers.
Wednesday night was just one win, but it was a step in the right direction.
Said John Carlson, "I think we knew the type of effort it takes and I think now you channel that and move to the next one."