The Washington Capitals faced the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday for the first time this season — the first of three meetings they’ll have overall. In Game One, the Caps discovered what a lot of the league has already learned: That Tage Thompson guy is pretty good.
Thompson had a four-point night against the Capitals, winning the game in overtime with his hat-trick goal. Tage made the Caps look silly on the play, deking around Erik Gustafsson’s out-stretched stick and beating Darcy Kuemper to the top corner for the 5-4 victory.
It was Thompson’s third hat trick of the season, the most of any player in the NHL so far this year. Tage outdueled Alex Ovechkin, who scored twice on the night.
With his big game, Thompson became the second player in the NHL to hit 30 goals. His output was a fitting tribute to Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin.
Tage’s January 3rd…
🔹 3 goals
🔹 3rd hat trick of the season
🔹 30th goal of the season
🔹 Winner 3 minutes into overtime
This one was for you, Damar. pic.twitter.com/hWkFr3sk15
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 4, 2023
The Capitals had nothing but praise for the young Sabres’ superstar, who Buffalo acquired in a trade in 2018 that sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis. Multiple Capitals players had kudos to give the 26-year-old forward including TJ Oshie, who was on the ice for Thompson’s overtime-winner.
“I think he’s kind of put himself up there with the elite group in the world as far as hockey goes,” Oshie claimed. “He keeps making plays like he has this year and he’s going to get a lot of points in this league. Tough guy to play against and he made us pay out there.”
Caps forward Sonny Milano, who opened the scoring for the Capitals, is apparently no stranger to Thompson’s skillsets. The two were teammates on the United States national team during the 2018 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
“I’ve known him for a while so I’ve kinda seen this coming for a while now,” Milano stated. “I’ve always said it, he’s obviously a super-talented player. He’s huge, he’s got great hands and that speed as well so I’m not too surprised.”
Captain Alex Ovechkin even left a short comment on playing Thompson and his fellow teammates.
“Yeah, obviously he’s big, strong, good puck mover you know? Has a great shot,” Ovechkin said. “(The Sabres) They’re young, they’re a talented group of guys out there. It was a fun game.”
Thompson was named one of the NHL’s Three Stars of the Month along with Ovechkin this December. The Great Eight respectively earned First Star with his achievement in passing Gordie Howe for second highest goal scorer of all time. He managed to score thirteen goals and nine assists, for a total of 22 points in 15 games. Thompson received the Third Star slot, where he tallied the same amount of goals and assists as Ovi, but took four fewer games to do so.
The young star put up amazing stats all season so far, currently at 30 goals, 25 assists, and 55 points. This puts him second overall in goals and third in points.
Capitals’ head coach Peter Laviolette noted that it took some time for the Caps to adjust to the speed of Thompson and his fellow teammates.
“We’re playing a team that’s young and fast and is dynamic offensively, you know? They’re the top-scoring team in the league and it showed,” Laviolette stated.
The Capitals, however, were able to gain some momentum after the first-period struggles and kept the score either tied or within a goal for the rest of the game until falling in overtime.
“I thought after the first period the guys did a good job of cleaning that up,” Laviolette said. “Not perfect, but certainly much better.”
Washington will next face the Sabres next in Buffalo on February 26th, and once more at home on March 15th. Will Tage still be all the rage then?
Headline photo: @tommer97/Instagram
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