Postgame Notebook: Lightning 7, Capitals 4
This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven –
Well, maybe the monkey hasn’t gone to heaven, but it is off the collective back of the Tampa Bay Lightning. After dropping 12 straight games to the Capitals, the Lightning defeated the Capitals for the first time in nearly 26 months. The Bolts rode a strong first-period effort to a 7-4 victory over Washington on Tuesday.
The Lightning scored four goals – including two in as many tries on the power play – in a span of 12:01 in the first period to roll out to a 4-1 advantage after the first 20 minutes. Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth
made a few stellar stops to keep the Caps within striking distance, but he was relieved in favor of Jose Theodore after the first.
The Caps charged back with three goals of their own in the second, drawing even with the Bolts at 4-4 when Mike Green
scored his second power play goal of the game at 12:08 of the middle period. The Caps’ third and fourth goals came almost immediately after the Lightning put goaltender Antero Niittymaki in for starter Mike Smith, who left the game at 6:36 of the second with a cervical strain.
Niittymaki looked shaky; even the saves he made looked adventurous. But the Lightning must have sensed that; it began to protect him better and the Caps were unable to get that fifth goal and take the lead. Meantime, the Lightning’s Martin St. Louis scored the 250th goal of his NHL career at 17:28 of the second to enable the Bolts to carry a 5-4 edge into the third.
The Lightning’s Kurtis Foster made it 6-4 on an even-strength strike from the point four minutes into the third, and the Washington penalty kill – already dinged for three extra-man tallies – was asked to kill three minor penalties in the first half of the third period. It proved to be too tall a task. While Nick Backstrom was off for boarding at 8:12 of the third, ex-Cap Jeff Halpern potted the Lightning’s fourth power play goal of the night to round out the scoring.
“I think for Tampa,” says Caps defenseman Brian Pothier, “they’ve been frustrated for a lot of games now. It’s been mounting and mounting, and it’s going to come to a head eventually. They played a good game. We were sleeping in the first period, but they took advantage of their opportunities. I felt like we really didn’t show up in the first for whatever reason. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t keep that streak going.”
For the Lightning, Tuesday’s game marked the second straight tilt in which it stopped a lengthy losing streak against a conference foe. The Bolts ended a 10-game losing streak against the Devils with Sunday’s 4-2 win (in a game that began on Friday) in New Jersey.
Rough Stuff –
Things got heated midway through the third period. Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie slashed Alex Ovechkin
in front of the Lightning goal, breaking the Caps’ left winger’s stick. There was no call. Ovechkin raced to the bench for a new twig and zoomed back to the Lightning zone, spotting Downie with the puck. He laid a clean hit on the Lightning winger, a hit to which Downie took exception.
Downie dropped his right glove and took a bare-handed jab at Ovechkin. Both players were given roughing minors. When they came out of the box, they engaged again. The two dropped their gloves and Ovechkin tossed his helmet, and they squared off.
That’s when Matt Bradley
charged in and took matters into his own hands. He grabbed Downie and began throwing some passionate punches.
“It’s hockey,” says Caps defenseman Brian Pothier. “Ovi makes a good play to come and make a hit. There’s a little scuffle. Downie takes offense to it and asks him to fight. Ovi says ‘yes.’ The last thing you want to do is see Ovi fighting, but I thought Brads did a real heroic thing to step in. It’s not that Ovi can’t handle himself; we all know he is one of the strongest guys in the league. But we don’t need him to fight.”
“I thought he [Downie] slashed my stick,” says Ovechkin. “I had the puck and went to shoot and there’s no stick, and there’s no call. But it’s okay, I’ve just got to forget it and go straight to tomorrow’s game.”
As the sequence was unfolding, the Lightning’s television announcers were reportedly claiming that Bradley left the bench to come to Ovechkin’s aid, a charge Bradley vehemently denies.
“We got a guy like that [Downie] going after our best player,” declares Bradley, “and obviously we can’t let that happen. I bet they would do the exact same thing if someone was squaring off with [Stephen] Stamkos. You don’t let guys like that [Downie] go after your best player. I would never leave the bench to just randomly go after the guy. If that was the case I would have left a lot earlier, but I had to wait for [Eric Fehr
] to come off. He came off, and I went after him [Downie].
“They [the Tampa Bay announcers] obviously didn’t watch the video. There was no leaving the bench. I think the video is pretty obvious if you look at it, so maybe they should take a look at the video.”
Had the officials properly called the slash on Downie (which would have been his second lash of the game) or had they given Downie and instigator for punching Ovechkin for what most believe was a clean hit, the later shenanigans would have been avoided.
Caps center David Steckel
also deserves some credit for fighting Tampa Bay’s Zenon Konopka. The 29-year-old Konopka has played all of 82 NHL games, and his chief purposes are dropping the gloves and winning face-offs; he has 265 career PIM. Steckel has three NHL fights, and tonight’s was his first in nearly two years.
“I’ve played against him before,” says Steckel of Konopka. “If he’s cross-checking Backstrom off draws and stuff, who is he to be doing that? It just got me fired up.”
Four Score –
For the first time this season, Washington has scored four or more goals in four consecutive games. The Caps scored four or more goals in each of their final seven regular season games of 2008-09.
First Period –
For the second time in as many games, the Caps did not come out strong in the first. Although they lead 3-0 after 20 minutes in Saturday’s 8-1 thumping of the Thrashers, they needed Neuvirth’s netminding heroics to keep them in it. The Caps have been outshot 33-13 in the first period of their last two games.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Lightning had only 28 first-period goals all season.
Southeast Slayer – Alexander Semin
had a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s game. He now has 14 goals and 28 points in 25 career games against the Lightning. Semin has 58 goals and 113 points in 102 career games against Southeast Division opponents.
Multiple Men –
Green’s two-goal night was his second such effort of the season. Nine different Capitals have now combined for 32 two-goal games in the team’s 45 games this season, but no Cap has managed a hat trick yet.
Positive Touch –
Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz
and partner Tom Poti
were both plus-2 on the night. Schultz has been a plus or even player in 20 of his last 21 games and is plus-19 during that span.
Schultz is a league-leading plus-25 on the season and is now plus-55 for his 212-game NHL career. He is tied for 46th on the NHL’s all time list in plus-minus for the first four years of a defenseman’s career. Among those ahead of Schultz on that list are a dozen current or future Hockey Hall of Famers.
Get Out Of Here –
The linesmen had a field day tossing pivots from the face-off circle on Tuesday. Twelve different Capitals and eight different Lightning took face-offs in Tuesday’s game. Six Capitals and one member of the Lightning took just a single draw on the night and two Bolts took just two face-offs.
Radar Off –
Ovechkin’s shooting radar was off a bit in Tuesday’s game. He fired three shots on goal but also had five blocked and missed the net five times. Those 10 errant shots accounted for more than a third of Washington’s total of 28 (13 blocked, 15 missed) on the night.
Four Score –
The Caps surrendered four goals in a period for the first time since allowing four in the second period of a 6-5 overtime loss on Oct. 6 at Philadelphia.
Tough Night –
Caps defensemen Green and Shaone Morrisonn both had tough nights. Morrisonn was on the ice for all seven Lightning goals on the night, including four power play goals. Green was on for six of the seven, but also scored twice on the Washington power play. Both finished at minus-3.
First Strike –
The Caps scored first in eight of the 12 consecutive games they won against the Lightning, including six of the last seven games.
Getting Healthy –
The Lightning netted four power play goals on the night. The Bolts’ previous high this season had been two power play goals in a game, achieved eight times. Tonight marked the first time the Lightning had scored as many as four power play goals in a game since Dec. 29, 2002.
Coming into Tuesday's game, the Bolts were just 7-for-58 (12.1%) with the extra man in their previous 16 games.
It marked just the second time in the last 18 games that the Caps had allowed more than one power play goal in a game.
Two Up –
With his two goals tonight, the Lightning’s Stephen Stamkos has 25 for the season, two more than he had in his rookie season of 2008-09. With three points tonight, he has one more point than he had as an NHL freshman. He played in 79 games last season; he has played 45 games this season.
Stamkos has a total of 41 goals since Feb. 17 of last year. Only one player in the NHL – Ovechkin – has had more goals over the same span. Ovechkin has 42 goals since Feb. 17.
Happy Birthday –
To one of our favorite ex-Caps, Ulf Dahlen. Dahlen was born on Jan. 12, 1967.
By The Numbers –
The Caps were credited with just three hits in the first period. The Lightning had eight … Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier was 8-for-8 in the faceoff circle after the first period … More than half (20 of 36) of the Lightning’s shots on goal for the night came on the power play … Mike Knuble
led the Caps with three hits on the night … Halpern paced the Lightning with three blocked shots in the game.
|Three star selections
||MARTIN ST. LOUIS