Despite Troy Brouwer scoring a hat-trick, it was Karl Alzner who stole the show in the Washington Capitals’ 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
Brouwer’s night was impressive, as he topped off a natural hat-trick with an empty net goal with one-minute left in the third to gives Washington a 4-2 lead. At the time it seemed as if the goal would seal the deal for Washington, as the Lightning would have less than a 60-seconds to score two goals. Vincent Lecavalier had other ideas though, as he pulled the Lightning to within one with 10-seconds left and the team almost scored the equalizer as time expired.
“The game was never just hold on. The gameplan is always try to keep your systems the same, play the right way,” Brouwer said of Washington’s mindset after taking a three goal lead. “We got back on our heels, we let them get too many chances on us defensively.”
Despite almost blowing the lead late, it was a big two points in a game Alzner dubbed as a “must win.” Even though Brouwer tallied his first career hat-trick, the talk of the locker room was of Alzner’s fight with Tampa Bay enforcer Steve Downey.
Midway through the second period, Alzner and Downie dropped the gloves just inside the Washington zone. It was Alzner’s first fight of his professional hockey career. The young, and out-matched defenseman, managed to get a few punches in on Downie, but eventually succumbed to a takedown. Alzner said he never really regretted taking on a guy like Downie.
“No not really,” Alzner said when asked if at any point he wish he hadn’t dropped the gloves. “The only thing I thought was a bad idea was when I had him tied up and tried to throw that punch. I lost grip and I was like, okay this might be a bad idea.”
Even though the young defenseman has never fought before in his career, he said his bad blood with Downie had been brewing for some time.
“We’ve gone at it a little bit … he’ll fight his best friend if that’s the case,” Alzner said of his history with Downie. “I’ve had a couple of run-ins with Downie in the past and I know him.”
The light-hearted, good-spirited Alzner sported big shiner on his left cheek proudly after the game, as if it was a scar from battle. After he returned to the bench, Alzner said Head Coach Dale Hunter, along with Assistant Coach Jim Johnson, came over and said good job to him. Hunter on the other hand, said he hadn’t spoken with Alzner, but rated him as a “good” fighter.
Totally lost in the Brouwer hat-trick and Alzner fight was a very strong game from Dennis Wideman. Fresh off of being named an NHL All-Star, Wideman had two points and and played a large part in the first two goal on the power play. He also led his team in ice time and suddenly looks like a top pairing defenseman who can really anchor down a blue line for the rest of the season.
Of note in the game, Washington was outshot 31-20 and it was even more lopsided for most of the third period. After jumping out to a quick lead, it was clear the Caps were going to play a defensive style. While it didn’t result in the prettiest win, it is something fans are going to have to get used to seeing, as ugly wins and shot totals are going to become a common place in Hunter’s system.