Sunday, January 31, 2010, 7:53 PM
Whew! That was close! Just when it looked like the Caps were rollingtowards a share of the franchise record, the Lightning pickedthemselves up and made it a great struggle in the 3rd period.
Before Icomment on the last seven minutes, lets go back to a sleepy 1st period.Neither period had very much energy in the opening frame. Most of usfigured this game would have some bad blood carrying over from theprevious meeting January 12th. Steve Downy and Alex Ovechkin were theprincipal combatants in that clash and they bumped into each other thisgame today, but no fireworks came of it.
Goalies Mike Smith and JoseTheodore weren't overly busy in the first 20 minutes. That would changequickly in the middle stanza. Nicklas Backstrom has developed aterrific nose around the net and he sniffed out a rebound for a powerplay goal 57 seconds into the period. Just under 12 minutes laterBrooks Laich will camp out in front of a sprawling Smith for an easytap-in. A sequence of cross-ice passes sent the poor goalie reeling outof position. The Capitals relaxed early in the third period and italmost bit them in the back side.
Martin St.Loius and Steven Stamkosscored two pretty goals within three minutes of each other to put a bigtime scare into DC and its fans. The decibel level wasn't earsplittingearly on in the day but it was with about eight minutes to go. TheVerizon Center scoreboard begged for the team and its fans to unleashthe fury, and they did
The captain took the lead, literally. AlexOvechkin's wrist shot burned through Smith with 6:26 to go inregulation, and the home team was back in charge.
Great clubs figureout how to clamp down when they resurrect a lead like that, and theseCaps took the steps necessary and received a couple of strong savesfrom Jose Theodore to bank their 10th straight win.
This remarkableteam will head for Boston knowing it has a chance to claim a franchiserecord all for itself on Tuesday. It should be quite a show.