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Oshie strikes Lightning three times to lead Caps over Tampa

Oshie strikes Lightning three times to lead Caps over Tampa

Final score: Washington Capitals 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 3

How it happened: Things got off to a good start for Washington as T.J. Oshie scored twice in the first 12 minutes of the game. That lead did not even last the period, however, as Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn both scored to tie the game at 2 before the end of the first. After a scoreless second period, Washington reasserted control as both Justin Williams and John Carlson struck in the third period. Kucherov pulled Tampa within one with 1:30 remaining, but Oshie salted away the win by completing the hat trick with an empty netter.

What it means: With the win, Washington is now the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth. The Caps maintained first place in the Metropolitan Division with a three-point lead over Pittsburgh and a two-point lead over Columbus, though both teams have a game in hand over Washington.

Goals

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie (power play) from Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson at 3:44 in the first period. The Caps pulled off one of their normal scoring plays on the power play, but with a twist. Backstrom passed to Johansson who was in front of the net instead of in his normal spot behind the red line. He then made the quick pass to Oshie in the slot for the goal. Caps 1, Lightning 0

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 11:52 in the first period. Ovechkin broke out of the defensive zone on a 2-on-1 with Oshie. Ovechkin held the puck as long as he could drawing Victor Hedman over and then hit Oshie with the beautiful pass getting him his second goal of the game. Caps 2, Lightning 0

Lightning goal: Nikita Kucherov (power play) from Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point at 15:52 in the first. A pad save by Braden Holtby led to a battle for the puck in front. Kucherov snuck in towards the net away from the crowd. Eventually, Palat was able to tip the puck out to an open Kucherov who bried the shot. jCaps 2, Lightning 2

Lightning goal: Alex Killorn from Jonathan Drouin at 16:08 in the first. Drouin cut off a breakout attempt by Washington and passed to Killorn in the circle. Matt Niskanen went down a bit too early trying to block the shot allowing Killorn to curl around him and fire on net as he was falling to the ice. Caps 2, Lightning 2

Caps goal: Justin Williams from Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky at 3:14 in the third period. The Caps' power play expired, but the team maintained possession of the puck to keep up the pressure. Burakovsky fed Niskanen at the blue line who one-timed a monster shot that Williams deflected into the back of the net. Caps 3, Lightning 2

Caps goal: John Carlson from Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie at 5:30 in the third period. With a delayed penalty coming against Tampa, Oshie chipped a puck into the slot. A charging Carlson whacked it out of the air and past Vasilevskiy. Caps 4, Lightning 2

Lightning goal: Nikita Kucherov from Brayden Point at 18:30 in the third period. A rare faceoff loss for Jay Beagle turned into a quick shot for Kucherov that beat Holtby. Caps 4, Lighting 3

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie (empty netter) from Nicklas Backstrom at 19:16 in the third period. Caps 5, Lightning 3

3 stars

1. T.J. Oshie: With three goals on the night, Oshie now leads the Caps in goals with 29 and that's despite missing 13 games on the season.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: Washington's top line was on fire and Backstrom was a major factor with four assists. It is his fourth game with three or more assists this season.

3. Nikita Kucherov: With so many offensive players out for the Lightning, someone had to step up. Kucherov did his part with two goals to keep Tampa in the game.

Look ahead: Washington returns to Verizon Center for the last home stand of the season as they host Calgary on Tuesday, Columbus on Thursday and Arizona on Saturday.

Tell us what you think: Andre Burakovsky returned to the lineup Saturday after a 15-game absence for a broken hand. After a few hiccups at the start of the game, he came on strong with some fantastic scoring opportunities. For the game, Burakovsky finished with seven shots on goal. How do you think he played in his first game back? How do you think the third line looked?

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Capitals flex their scoring depth with feat they have not accomplished since 2014

Capitals flex their scoring depth with feat they have not accomplished since 2014

Since drafting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals have built an entire team around its superstar forwards.

As they go, so go the Caps.

The 2016 playoffs showed, however, that a strong supporting cast is just as important in a Stanley Cup run than the top playmakers. With that in mind, Wednesday's result was a very good sign for the Caps.

In a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche, five different players scored for Washington. None of those five players were Ovechkin or Backstrom.

In fact, both Ovechkin and Backstrom were held without a single point in the win.

How rare is that? Washington has scored five or more goals in 20 games this season and either Backstrom or Ovechkin had at least one point in every one of them until Wednesday.

The last time the Caps scored five or more goals in a game and Ovechkin and Backstrom were held without a point was April 23, 2015 in a 5-1 playoff win over the New York Islanders. The last time it happened in the regular season was on Dec. 18, 2014 in a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Getting increased scoring depth was a major focus for the Caps heading into the 2016-17 season after seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins' depth carry them to a Stanley Cup in 2016. Obviously, Washington will need production from its top two playmakers in the postseason in order to be successful, but the fact that they can rely on their depth at times when they need to is a really good sign.

With just six games left to go in the regular season, the Caps are showing they have the depth to make a run in 2017.

MORE CAPITALSCaps fight off comeback attempt from Avalanche

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Washingtonians get up close and personal view of Stanley Cup on tour of nation's capital

Washingtonians get up close and personal view of Stanley Cup on tour of nation's capital

The Stanley Cup is the top prize in hockey and the most beautiful trophy in all of sports.

On Thursday morning, keeper of the cup Phillip Pritchard was in Washington, D.C. with Lord Stanley's Cup for a special tour of the nation's capital as part of a promotion for the NHL on NBC and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin Wednesday, April 12.

After a quick stop at the CSN office in Bethesda, Md., The Cup made its way downtown to take in some of the sights and sounds from the National Mall and other notable D.C. landmarks.

RELATED: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKINGS

The Cup's itinerary for Thursday is as follows:

9:45 a.m. — Lincoln Memorial

11:30 a.m. — White House

Noon — Freedom Plaza

1:30 p.m. — Farragut Square

2:30 p.m. — 7th Street NW

5:00 p.m. — U.S. Capitol, 3rd Street

We understand if you're uneasy about seeing the Stanley Cup in Washington, D.C., before the playoffs begin, but it's hard to pass up a chance to hang out with the greatest trophy in all of sports.