Here’s an instant analysis of the Capitals’ season-opening 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of a sellout crowd at Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday night:
Game in a nutshell: The Capitals dominated the game at the start but Braden Hotlby allowed goals on the first two shots he faced. The Caps rallied to tie the score three times on a pair of goals by Joel Ward and another by Wojtek Wolski, but back-to-back tripping penalties to Mathieu Perreault and Nicklas Backstrom allowed Marty St. Louis to blast the game-winner past Holtby on a two-man advantage. After that the Lightning piled it on with goals from rookie Cory Conacher and Eric Brewer.
Offensive stars: St. Louis was brilliant with two goals and one assist for the Lightning. Joel Ward, who spent much of last season in Dale Hunter’s doghouse and much of the offseason rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, scored two goals by driving hard to the net for dirty rebounds.
Man-advantage: No surprises on the Caps’ power play, where the first unit had Mike Green [right points], Alex Ovechkin [top of left circle], Nicklas Backstrom [right half wall], Marcus Johansson [right goal line] and Troy Brouwer [slot]. The second unit had John Carlson [right point], Ovechkin [top of left circle], Mike Ribeiro [right half wall] Wojtek Wolski [right goal line] and Joel Ward [slot]. The Caps went 1-for-3 on the man-advantage.
Killers: Adam Oates used Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, Brouwer, Ribeiro, Backstrom, Johansson, Chimera and Ovechkin on the kill, although Ovi played just 54 seconds shorthanded.
Injury update: Caps defenseman Jack Hillen left the game midway through the second period when he was driven head-first into the boards by Vinny Lecavalier. He did not return. The left side of Hillen’s head, along with his left shoulder, took the brunt of the collision with the boards. No penalty was called on the play and it appeared to be a clean hit.
Loose pucks: Oates is expected to give his players the day off on Sunday. They’ll return to Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Monday at 10:30 in preparation for Tuesday night’s home opener against the Winnipeg Jets.