Joe B: Survival training

Joe B: Survival training
February 15, 2013, 8:45 am
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Caps-Lightning highlights: 3 in a row for Caps

When the final horn sounded Thursday night in Tampa, the Caps had secured their third victory in succession. A 4-3 triumph over the Lightning turned out to be a little too close for comfort, but the team survived, and it made for a satisfying trip through the state of Florida. 

The Lightning won the first meeting between these teams back on opening night Jan. 19 and they used three power-play goals to fuel the win.  This time around the man-advantages were scarce, but it would be the Capitals who turned on the electricity.

Washington had just one power-play chance for the entire game and performed beautifully with it.

The passing in the sequence that led up to the first goal was done with impeccable precision.  Mike Green bluffed a long shot from the mid-point, then slipped the puck over to Nicklas Backstrom.  Backstrom drew defenders toward him before crisply firing a pass to Mathieu Perreault who was stationed just to the left of the goalpost guarded by Lightning keeper Mathieu Garon.  In the blink of an eye Perreault one-timed a pass to the slot where Troy Brouwer drilled his team leading 7th goal into an open cage.  It was brilliant execution of the power-play set-up.

The lead would only last for a few minutes.  Martin St. Louis ended his personal 10-game drought without a goal when he stuffed a rebound under Braden Holtby, who was scrambling in circles around his crease.

The lone goal in the second period came from Eric Fehr and was set-up by his line-mates Perreault and Joel Ward.  It was Ward who fore-checked aggressively and forced a turnover.  While still working behind the goal, Ward passed to the slot where Perreault attempted to kick the puck from his skate to his stick.  The kick-pass went right to Fehr, who roofed his second goal in as many games.

The Caps carried that 2-1 lead into the third period, and outworked the Lightning to build some insurance.

Fehr made it a two-goal game with a wicked slapshot that beat Garon high to the glove side.

Jay Beagle improved the lead to three when he would not be denied in the crease during a frantic goal-mouth scramble.  The puck squirted loose from Garon, and Beagle would slide it into net while lying on his side.

A 4-1 lead with 12 minutes to go seemed like a healthy-enough cushion, but Tampa Bay entered the game with the most goals scored in the NHL and they would not go down without a fight.

Teddy Purcell, whom Holtby had robbed back in the first period with a dazzling glove save, slipped in a backhanded shot from a very sharp angle that managed to find its way through traffic and the Caps netminder to close the gap to two.

When Nate Thompson roared in alone on a breakaway about four minutes later, the game really got tense.  Holtby took an aggressive gamble to go with a poke-check to thwart Thompson.  It did not faze the hustling winger, who deked Braden and put a backhand into the wide-open cage.

There was still 3:13 left on the clock, but Holtby and the Caps defenders would not buckle again.

The loss for the Lightning is their sixth straight setback (0-5-1).  Washington will take a three-game winning roll into New York Sunday for a 6pm start against the Rangers.  Coverage of that contest is exclusively on NBC Sports Network.