Capitals-Lightning recap

 

This battle for first place certainly delivered tonight. We saw two goalies do their hardest to keep their teams in the game, both teams trading scoring chances and a lot of great physical play. For awhile, it looked like this game was another case where the Caps were taking silly penalties, playing poor special teams, creating offense but “ran into a hot goaltender” and couldn’t capitalize on any scoring chances. However, you could tell the team wasn’t playing bad after the first 20 minutes and they finally started to come together. It was with less than 6 minutes left in the 3rd period that the best forward on the ice tonight, Alex Semin tied the game on a wicked wrist shot. Despite a strong powerplay effort in OT, the Caps were unable to finish off the Lightning but managed to get the two points in the shootout (partially due to some bizarre shooter choices by Guy Boucher).

When you think of games that should have ended in a tie, this would have been one of them.

Like the last four games, this wasn’t a complete effort but the Caps got the job done in extra time and retained first place in the East. They also did it with Michal Neuvirth and Nicklas Backstrom having to leave the game early but Braden Holtby was great in relief. Let’s hope that neither of those two injuries are serious, though because that could be trouble down the road.

Thoughts/Observations

– Alex Semin was, in my mind, the best forward on the ice for both teams. He had 7 shots on net, the game-tying goal and he was even getting involved in the physical game a little bit. For the last two periods, I was thinking to myself that he had to get a goal sooner or later with the way he was playing and he eventually did.

– Dwayne Roloson did all he could to win this game for the Lightning despite their defensive corps nearly selling him out in overtime. They surrendered 10 shots in that 5-minute frame alone (granted, the Caps were up a man for the last 2 minutes) and he shut down almost all of the Caps chances. That said, he was giving up a lot of rebounds but most of them weren’t going where the Caps forwards were.

– Braden Holtby was fantastic in relief for Neuvirth tonight after the latter took a shot off his mask and had to leave after the first period. Holtby seems to get more solid every time he’s called up and I am definitely getting more confident with him in the net. He had to make 14 saves in the 2nd period alone and had a huge stop on Simon Gagne during that frame, as well. This was against a very talented offensive team, too. It’s good to know the Caps can call him up whenever Neuvirth and Varlamov get hurt. However, I hope Neuvirth’s injury isn’t too serious.

– Speaking of injuries, I hope the same for Nicklas Backstrom. He apparently hurt his hand in the second period which likely isn’t good news at all. He was perfect on all 7 of his face-offs tonight and I don’t know how long it will take for Jason Arnott to develop chemistry with Ovechkin. Him and Semin seem to work fine for now, though.

– The entire defensive corps deserves a pat on the back for buckling down late in the game tonight. No one in particular stood out but I noticed each of them make various good plays. John Carlson had 4 blocked shots including a huge one on Vinny Lecavalier. Jeff Schultz made a great play to break up a Tampa 2-on-1. Alzner and Carlson held Stamkos to only 2 shots on net. Dennis Wideman skated 28 minutes and was solid on the PK and the last powerplay and Scott Hannan did great on the PK, as well.

– Pierre made note that every single time Ovechkin was no the ice, the line of Hall-Thompson-Tyrell were there to match up against him, so were Eric Brewer and Mattias Ohlund and they did shut him down for most of the game. 6 blocked shots between those two on the night. However, our first line did a terrific job later in the game of forechecking well and pinning the Lightning in their own zone and it eventually paid off.

– There were quite a few chances for us that I thought we could have had tonight. There was Arnott missing an open net in the second period, Laich electing to deke and not shoot in OT, Wideman fanning on a shot in OT and a lot of others. All great scoring chances.

– If we have more PP’s like we did in OT, it will get better.

– So, you have Marty St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos on your team and you elect to go with Dominic Moore and Adam Hall as your first two shooters in the SO. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Apparently his third choice is usually Steve Downie but he was hurt tonight. Think it helps explains how much of a joke shootouts are.

– I know I’m supposed to hate all things Lightning but I love Martin St. Louis. Have sense I started watching hockey.

Five wins in a row for the Caps and they have a couple of tough games on the schedule against Philly and Chicago coming up soon but it’s good to know that they can still compete with a good team even we’re still working on playing for a whole 60 minutes. Hopefully that will come at the right time.

Three Stars

1. Alexander Semin

2. Dwayne Roloson

3. Braden Holtby

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