OK, the Caps have won their first two games of this new season, and just about everyone wants to nitpick the way they achieved those victories. Mistakes, miscues and bad decisions notwithstanding, neither win was a work of art -- that we can say with certainty. But what is most important is that good hockey teams find a way to overcome their flaws and escape victorious, and that has been the script so far for Washington.
At the practice rink this morning, Tomas Vokoun mentioned that this clash with Tampa Bay was a very early chance in the season to make a statement. He was hoping that his new mates would be on their best behavior against the team that swept them out of the playoffs last spring.
Only 2:22 into his first start as a Cap, Tomas had to be muttering a few unpleasant statements to himself after a shot from Teddy Purcell bounced into the goal off Mike Green. It would be the first of three very strange-looking goals from what I came to describe as the coffin corner. Those suspect goals against Vokoun were called everything from fluky to funky by players in both dressing rooms after the game.
Bruno Gervais scored from below the goal line from that same corner 8 12 minutes into the game. Brett Clark would throw one in off Vokoun from practically the same spot in the third period. It was hard to imagine a proven goalie the caliber of Vokoun having such a miserable time handling shots from a normally harmless angle. But the goalie would find redemption later.
Marcus Johansson, who played an inspired game after being shelved on opening night, was the beneficiary of a goal gift-wrapped by Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson. After the game, I saw Roli in the hallway, and he shook his head at me and said that was one of the craziest games hes been a part of, maybe ever.
Jason Chimera scored a pair of goals tonight, the second of which tied the game at 5 with only 2:16 left in regulation. Chimera, with linemates Brooks Laich and Joel Ward, has been a scoring threat in each of the first two games. This trio has looked especially strong and only figures to annoy opponents top lines as the year progresses.
How crazy is it to consider that there were 10 goals in regulation time and not one point was produced by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin, Martin St. Louis, Vincent LeCavalier, and Steven Stamkos? Those are six of the sports top offensive playmakers, and they were only bystanders tonight.
The Caps power play had countless chances to make a difference in the game, but didnt do it, as they went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.
I thought Roloson was spectacular in the third period to prevent Washington from running away with the win. The Caps threw 20 shots at him, including the two by Chimera that turned on the red light.
Vokoun would redeem himself in overtime. Tomas will be the first to tell you he had a rough game, but he demonstrated a great deal of mental toughness to fight through to the finish of a night that never seemed to want to go his way. The new Caps netminder made three excellent stops while his team was shorthanded in overtime. The Lightning power play group is a scary bunch, especially when it has so much room in a 4-on-3 setting.
The shootout had its own weird theater. Teams practice penalty shots a lot, and I am sure that coaches come to find they have a secret weapon or two that most folks wouldnt suspect. After the fact, its easy now to second-guess Guy Bouchers decision to go with Nate Thompson and Dominic Moore as his first two shooters. They must have pet moves that are very successful or else they wouldnt be working ahead of St. Louis, LeCavalier and Stamkos, who never received a chance to shoot.
Thats because of Washingtons not-so-secret-anymore-weapon, Matt Hendricks. He cashed in by paralyzing Roloson with a nasty deke to his forehand. When Alex Semin placed a backhand by Roloson in Round 3, the game was decided and, for now, the blunders can be forgiven.