February 18 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Times Forum
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, 820AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Pre-Cap at 2 p.m., Two-Man Advantage at 5:00 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Dale Hunter at 5:00 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com.
Washington Capitals (29-23-5)
Tampa Bay Lightning (25-26-6)
Washington’s four-game road trip continues on Saturday night when the Caps travel to Tampa to take on the Lightning. The Capitals started then trip in fine fashion on Friday night with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers, frontrunners in the Southeast Division.
Friday’s win lifted Washington to within two points of the Panthers for the top spot in the Southeast.
The victory over the Panthers was Washington’s first road win over a team currently in a playoff spot in more than two months, since a 5-3 triumph over the Senators in Ottawa on Dec. 7. Washington trailed both of those games heading into the third period.
The Caps overcame some adversity to earn that win. They surrendered the game’s first goal in the final minute of the first, and then had their own first goal waved off in the final minute of the second.
“We had a goal disallowed and that’s always tough,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter. “The guys were ready to play tonight and they played hard. They wanted a win bad.”
The road win in Florida was just Washington’s 10th in its 28 road games to date, and it was the first against a team currently in a playoff position since a 5-3 victory over the Senators in Ottawa on Dec. 7. Three of Washington’s four wins when trailing after the second period have come on the road.
The Capitals shook off the disallowed goal that would have tied the game late in the second period and got the equalizer on a third-period power play goal from Alex Ovechkin. Washington also killed off all three Florida power play chances without incident.
“I think it made guys angry,” says Knuble of the disallowed goal. “it made guys a little bit angry after the first. We were working hard and just staying with what we were doing. They still took one away from us. You get some crucial power plays in the third period and you’ve got to capitalize. They’re the ones that cost you games when you don’t get them. You get those late power plays and you have to convert. We were happy to do that.”
After shutting out his former Florida Panthers teammates in each of his first two starts against them on home ice this season, Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun finally made his first start as a visiting goaltender against the Panthers in Friday’s game. He stopped 22 of 23 shots to earn his 23rd victory of the season.
Felled with the flu last weekend, Vokoun was a bit shaky early in Friday’s game but he – and his teammates – rallied for his 23rd win of the season.
“I haven’t played for more than a week,” says Vokoun. “At first there were a couple bobbles. But as long as you keep your eyes on the puck, even if you bobble it, you can still follow it where it’s going. It was a big game. You’re a little bit nervous. It’s not easy playing back where I played last year, and we’re chasing them. But I settled in and it was a great finish by our guys getting a couple goals.”
Vokoun is now 3-1-2 with two shutouts, a 1.64 GAA and a .945 save pct. in six starts since the All-Star break.
Ovechkin’s goal was his 11th power play goal of the season and his 24th overall. The last Capital besides Ovechkin to score a power play goal on the road was defenseman Dennis Wideman, who notched an extra-man tally in San Jose on Jan. 7 in a 5-2 Washington loss.
Ovechkin has six of Washington’s 11 power play goals on the road this season. Wideman (two) is the only other Capital with more than one power play goal on the road.
Less than a year after they came within a game of reaching the Stanley Cup final, the Lightning has stocked its shelves with impending unrestricted free agent talent and has started the process of dishing veteran players around the league. The Bolts moved well-traveled center Dominic Moore – known as being a bit of a Cap-killer – to San Jose along with a seventh-round choice in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft for a second-round choice in 2012.
Tampa Bay also made it known that the club had asked veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina to submit a list of teams to which he would approve a trade.
When the Caps last visited the Lightning here in the first game after the NHL’s annual All-Star break, Tampa Bay skated off with a 4-3 overtime win. That victory gave the Lightning a season-high five-game winning streak, and the Bolts seemed as though they might be poised to take a late run at a playoff berth.
Since then, however, the Bolts are a pedestrian 3-3-2. Tampa Bay’s season was undone by its goaltending and its power play. The Lightning has surrendered 3.35 goals per game this season, the worst figure in the league. The Lightning’s power-play success rate of 13.8% is 29th in the NHL.
Veteran netminder Dwayne Roloson spearheaded the Lightning’s lengthy playoff drive last spring, but he struggled early on this season and eventually yielded the No. 1 gig to journeyman back-up Mathieu Garon.
In seven starts since the All-Star break, Garon is 3-2-2 with a 2.82 GAA and an .899 save pct. He was in net for the Bolts’ 4-3 win over the Caps here on Jan. 31, and Garon is 11-5-1 with a 2.59 GAA and a .903 save pct. in 18 home ice appearances (16 starts) this season.
The Bolts are coming off a 6-5 home ice win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Martin St. Louis supplied the game-winner in overtime for the Bolts in that game, just as he did when the Caps last visited Tampa on Jan. 31.
St. Louis has nine overtime game-winners in his career with the Lightning. According to Elias Sports Bureau, only New Jersey’s Patrik Elias (15), the Capitals’ Ovechkin (10), Phoenix’s Shane Doan (10) and Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin have more overtime game-winners with their current club among aative players in the NHL.
St. Louis and Steven Stamkos each tallied twice in Thursday’s win over the Sharks, marking the first game in which both players have had two goals.