“We gotta come out hard and just keep the pedal to the metal,” Jason Chimera said after the morning skate today and the Caps for most of the game did just that scoring on two of three early power plays and giving the rival Lighting their sixth straight loss in the Caps 4-3 win.

“They’re {Tampa Bay} a pretty defensive team,”  Caps all-star Dennis Wideman said.  “They don’t give up a whole lot five-on-five [goals]. For our power play to come up with two early ones was big.”

For the Caps they are 8-1-0 in their last nine home games, 6-2-0 in their last eight overall and Troy Brouwer had his first multi-goal game of the season and his first career hat trick, he also added seven hits and was a big part in Alex Ovechkin’s 18th goal of the season.

Ovechkin started the scoring when he rifled one by Dwayne Roloson only 3:52 into the contest on the power play to give the Caps the early lead which is the Caps sixth straight game they’ve scored first at home and all came in the first period.  Troy Brouwer though had the big screen right in front of Roloson on the play and Ovechkin’s wrister went right through Brouwer’s legs and in.

“These games mean a lot more [with Tampa Bay in the same division as the Caps],”  Brouwer said following the win.  “It’s got more of a different feel to it than a boring, go along with it game. These {games} get you into it right from the beginning. There’s a lot of battles out there. It’s good to see guys are fighting hard.”

And Brouwer fought hard all night when he put in the next three goals for the Caps, the first just under two minutes later from Ovechkin’s goal, also on the power play when Brouwer beat Roloson five hole from the side and the second was 5:25 into the second period when Brouwer put in a Brooks Laich rebound.  For Laich that was his first point since December 23rd.  Brouwer put the game away putting in an empty netter with a minute remaining, a goal that they needed to clinch the game since they would give up two late Lightning goals, including one with 11 seconds left in the third.

“I’m pretty excited”  Brouwer said on his hat trick.  “I was close once before. It’s a special feat, but at the same time I’m excited about the win tonight.”

He added that against Colorado a few years ago he thought he had a hat trick against the Avalanche while playing for the Blackhawks, but the official scorer changed it between periods.

The Lightning though did play tough, scoring two goals in the final 3:24, out shooting the Caps 31-20 and holding the Caps to no shots during an 18 minute period between the second and third periods.

“We maybe sat back, kind of took a breath a little and let them come at us”  Wideman said.  “We gave up quite a few shots and we didn’t get a whole lot I think.  Whether we got the lead or not,  I think we’d like to push a little bit more offensively.”

The Caps are two points behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division with a game in hand.  Even though it’s just past the halfway point of the season, they know how big these two points are.

“I think everybody is classifying all these games as must-wins now,”  Caps Karl Alzner said.  “We’re not any position to say it’s just a game, we’re trying to win all of them.”

Alzner also had his first career NHL fight when he fought Steve Downie in the second period.  Alzner said it was a “good experience”.

The Caps stay at home for game three of a four game homestand.  On Sunday they play another division rival in the Carolina Hurricanes for a 5pm start.  For the third game in a row the Caps will also be playing a team coming off playing the night before, this time the Hurricanes are playing the Boston Bruins Saturday at home.

“You gotta keep winning,”  Head Coach Dale Hunter said.  “Everybody else is winning, so you have to win. These points are huge and we need them. ”

Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Troy Brouwer, Alex Ovechkin, Dennis Wideman, Tomas Vokoun and Karl Alzner had to say following the win.

Caps Goals:

1st 3:52 PP Ovechkin (18), Johansson (16), Wideman (22)

1st 5:45 PP Brouwer (12), Semin (13), Wideman (23)

2nd 5:25 Brouwer (13), Laich (14), Knuble (8)

3rd 19:00 EN Brouwer (14), Laich (15), Halpern (9)

Dale Hunter Postgame Audio

Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio

Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio

Dennis Wideman Postgame Audio

Tomas Vokoun Postgame Audio

Karl Alzner Postgame Audio


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