Caps, Bolts Tangle for Top Spot in Southeast
Sunday, 03.06.2011 / 9:53 PM
Mike Vogel - WashingtonCaps.com Senior WriterMarch 7 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum
820AM, 1500AM and XM
Pre-Cap podcast on washingtoncaps.com at 2 p.m.
Washington Capitals (36-20-10)
Tampa Bay Lightning (37-21-7)
Washington finishes a quick two-game tour of Florida with its final visit of the season to St. Pete Times Forum on Monday night. The Capitals take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a tussle for the top spot in the Southeast Division.
By virtue of its 3-2 overtime win over the Panthers in South Florida on Sunday, Washington hopped one point ahead of the Lightning for the top spot in the NHL’s Southeast Division.
“I think the game will be a little more intense,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, in comparing Monday’s game with the Lightning to Sunday’s contest with the Cats. “It should be a good battle. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Capitals and Lightning have met five times previously this season, and Washington has gone 3-1-1 in those contests. Most recently, the Caps authored a 5-2 win over the Bolts here in Tampa on Feb. 4.
With 17 road wins on the season, the Caps are three road victories shy of reaching 20 for the fourth straight season, a feat that has never before been accomplished in the franchise’s 36-season history. The Caps are 11-4-2 in their last 17 road games, and they bring a four-game road winning streak into Tampa Bay.
The four straight wins on the road is the Caps’ longest streak since they won five straight away from Verizon Center from Jan. 13-Feb. 4, 2010.
Washington has also won four straight overall, doing so for the first time since Nov. 24-Dec. 1. The Caps have won six of their last seven games overall, and they’ve taken each of their last seven games by the thinnest of margins, one goal. The Capitals are now 19-7-10 in one-goal contests in 2010-11.
The Lightning has allowed an average of 2.98 goals per game this season, 25th in the NHL. None of the five teams beneath the Bolts in that category will qualify for the playoffs this season.
First-year Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made two big in-season moves designed to address the Lightning’s issues in its own end. On New Year’s Day, he acquired veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson for blueline prospect Ty Wishart, and Roloson has helped stabilize the Lightning between the pipes.
Although Roloson compiled better peripheral numbers (2.64 GAA and .916 save pct.) during his 20 starts with the Islanders this season, he posted a record of 6-13-1 in those 20 appearances. Since joining the Lightning, Roloson has a 2.71 GAA and a .906 save pct. in 21 starts. But he has had better offensive and defensive support, resulting in a 12-8-1 record with four shutouts, including a pair of whitewashes of the Capitals.
Yzerman dealt a third-round draft choice and a prospect to St. Louis for veteran defenseman Eric Brewer, who had been serving as the Blues’ captain since the start of the 2007-08 season.
In seven games since coming to Tampa Bay, Brewer has a goal and is a plus-5 while averaging 20:27 of ice time per night.
Yzerman also signed journeymen free agent blueliner/power play specialist Marc-Andre Bergeron on Jan. 4. After a month-long stint with the AHL Norfolk Admirals, Bergeron was recalled in early February. He has played in 10 games for the Lightning, picking up a pair of goals and six points while averaging just 14:37 a night in ice time. Bergeron is averaging 5:07 in power play ice time per game, fourth overall in the league and tops among defensemen.
Washington’s Monday visit is the second game of a four-game homestand for the Lightning. Tampa Bay dropped the opener of the homestand 4-1 to the Canadiens on Saturday. Since an 8-3 home ice win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Feb. 23, the Bolts have had difficulty lighting the red lamp. After the eight-goal outburst against the Desert Dogs, Tampa Bay has had just eight goals in its last five games. The Bolts have scored two or fewer goals in seven of their last nine games.
Tampa Bay boasts a 21-8-4 record at St. Pete Times Forum, the best home ice record in the Eastern Conference and the second-best in the league. The Bolts went 7-3-2 on a 12-game homestand that stretched from Jan. 23-Feb. 25.
The Lightning has had three goaltenders record double-digit win totals this season. In addition to Roloson’s dozen victories, Mike Smith has 10 wins and the departed Dan Ellis had 13 before a trade sent him to Anaheim last month.
The Bolts have dropped three straight and have won only three of their last nine games (3-4-2).