WASHINGTON – Scott Walker had simple goals before taking the ice Thursday night for his first game with the Washington Capitals.
He was just hoping not to derail the his new teammates, who had the best record in the league before he joined the team in a trade at the deadline Wednesday.
“I was nervous, probably didn’t get a good pre-game nap, and I was just trying to play and fit in,” Walker said. “They’re playing so good, you just don’t want to disrupt them.”
Walker did a lot more than fit in. He scored twice in a 2:58 span in the third period to lead the Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was Washington’s 12th straight home win, adding to the team record.
Walker broke a 4-all tie when he deflected Mike Green’s shot, then dove to score on the rebound at 13:09 in the third period. It was his first multi-goal game of the season, giving him five total.
“His history has been – in the right place at the right time,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Walker, who was traded from Carolina, was one of three players who joined the Capitals in deadline trades. Eric Belanger and Joe Corvo also made their Washington debuts against the Lightning.
“We’ve thrown a completely different system at these guys. I know it’s said a lot, but they’re going ‘Whoa, we’ve never played like that,”‘ Boudreau said. “It’s a lot to get in the head and understand and I thought they picked it up well.”
It was the fifth straight loss for the Lightning, who have allowed at least five goals in each of the losses.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. “You’ve got to block a shot or dive to get the puck out of your own end. Bite the puck to get it out of your own end. We need those types of players. There are five or six guys that are costing us right now.”
Washington took a 3-2 lead after Mike Knuble scored twice in the second period, and held on through a tough penalty kill late in the period.
The Capitals were called for three penalties in less than a minute – the first of which was paired with a Lightning penalty – to give Tampa Bay a 4-on-3 advantage. It turned into 4-on-2½ when Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom broke his stick.
Backstrom blocked two shots without his stick and earned a standing ovation with about five minutes left in the second period. The defensive plays seemed to give Washington a lift, and the Capitals killed all three penalties to hold onto their lead.
“(Boudreau) put me in there and I wanted to do a good job,” Backstrom said. “Obviously you’ve got to block shots if you’re on the penalty kill.”
Washington pushed the lead to 4-2 when Walker scored his first goal at 10:11 in the third period.
Tampa Bay then got a quick pair of goals to tie the game. Vincent Lecavalier scored his second of the game on a breakaway 24 seconds after Walker’s first goal, and then Steven Stamkos scored his 38th of the season about two minutes later. That set the stage for Walker’s final goal.
“You’ve got to play that hard style within the system. Now I’ve just got to make sure the system I’ve got in there naturally is this system and not Carolina’s,” Walker said. “There’s a few tweaks here and there, but playing on the ice, putting five guys on five, it’s simple. You get the puck and you move on into their end.”
NOTES: The Capitals wore camouflage sweaters in pre-game warmups as part of the team’s Military Night. … Washington’s D John Erskine, R Matt Bradley and C David Steckel were healthy scratches to make room for the team’s additions. D Milan Jurcina, the fourth player the Capitals added at the trade deadline, is out 2-to-4 weeks for sports hernia surgery. … Stamkos extended his franchise-record points streak to 15 games.