TAMPA, Fla. -- Washington does not have many warm memories to embrace from its games in the state of Florida this season. Friday nights win over the Panthers in Sunrise is the only joy theyve shared over five total visits. Simply put, the Capitals need all the points they can muster in the Eastern Conference race and they left two behind in Tampa.
Both games this weekend were decided by 2-1 scores, and I cant help but think that this group from DC should have the advantage in those outings. Especially when facing a Tampa Bay club that has surrendered the most goals of any team in the league. The Bolts dont play many 2-1 games, but they were effective in this one Saturday.
On a day when they traded Pavel Kubina to Philadelphia, Tampa Bay proved to its fans they would not allow themselves to be distracted. They sent Dominic Moore to San Jose earlier in the week and appear to be operating in the sellers mode displayed by teams that have lost hope on the playoff chase. Their win over the Caps moves them within five points of the four-time defending division champs, who are outside the top eight spots in the East with lots of hockey still left to be played.
Playing its second game in as many nights, Washington appeared sluggish at times. They put 41 shots on goal against the Panthers, but only mustered 24 against Mathieu Garon in goal for the Bolts.
Earlier in the day the Caps pointed out that Tampas defense corps is a bigger group than the Panthers, and that it would be difficult to generate chances against them. We could see signs of that as the Lightning defenders did a good job boxing out in front of Garon and also by winning battles along the boards.
The Lightning opened the scoring in the first period before the contest reached the three-minute mark. Teddy Purcell sent a wrist shot toward to Tomas Vokoun that squeaked through the veteran netminder. With the puck lying inches from the goal-line, Tom Pyatt got loose from defenders and tapped in his sixth goal of the year.
The early stages of the second period were no better for the Caps. A Matt Hendricks turnover at the attacking blueline gave Steven Stamkos a clear breakaway to the goal, and the leagues top goal-scorer finished it with style making a high-speed deke to his forehand to beat Vokoun at the 1:50 mark.
The Lightning threatened again about six minutes later, but thankfully John Carlson was close by Vokoun to sweep a loose puck away from the goal-line.
In the next minute, Mathieu Perreault found Brooks Laich cutting toward the cage hitting him with a pass that Laich chipped past the acrobatic Garon. That made it 2-1 Tampa Bay with still more than half the hockey game to be played and no one figured that would be the last tally of the night, but it turned out that way.
Alex Ovechkin had two strong scoring chances in the third period go for naught. One was a sneaky wraparound effort that grazed the post while Garon went to a full split. Troy Brouwer had a great chance to tie the game late in the contest on a 2-on-1 break but he missed his target over the glove of Garon.
The Caps were glad to see Mike Green return to the active line-up Saturday, a mere five weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery. Mike appeared tentative in the first period and, as expected, his timing was a bit off, but he admitted to us after the game that he hopes to play more than the 14 minutes he worked tonight on Monday in Raleigh. Once he had the first period behind him, he looked more comfortable and thats a very positive sign for Washington.
See you from RBC Center Monday on CSN!
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