The Return of Godzilla – After this morning’s skate, Lightning goaltender Olie Kolzig admitted to some nervousness before facing his former Washington teammates for the first time tonight, saying he probably hasn’t been this nervous since his first NHL game (Oct. 11, 1989).
“It will probably be one of my harder games,” the ex-Caps goaltender admitted. “I’ve never been in this situation before where you’re playing against your old teammates. I’ve got 20 close friends on the other side but I’ve got 20 new ones here and we’re here to win a hockey game. So I’ve got to try to keep my emotions in check and just focus on stopping the puck. They’re obviously a potent offensive team and we’ve got to do everything we can to shut them down tonight.
“I think I’ll be into it once I face my first shot and kind of settle down.”
Kolzig didn’t see that first shot until 8:20 of the first period, and that shot from Caps defenseman Tom Poti beat him. The second shot – from defenseman Mike Green – also went into the Tampa Bay net. When Eric Fehr scored the Caps’ third goal of the first period on the team’s seventh shot at 16:24, Washington had all the goals it would need on this night.
The goals weren’t Kolzig’s fault, either.
“They weren’t the Islanders of ‘84 by any stretch,” said Lightning coach Barry Melrose after the game. “They had three scoring chances and they put them in. It wasn’t what they were doing; we were awful.
“It was brutal. After the game I told the guys, ‘Why try when you are down three to nothing? Why do it then?’ I was very disappointed in the play. It was very disappointing to play like that in front of Olie (Kolzig) in Washington.
“We have a lot of guys who have to do some soul searching. We have a lot of players who aren’t playing well right now. You see how well you can play, until they do it for 60 minutes, that’s where we will have problems. We’re a good team and when you come in here just swinging a stick check and nobody’s hitting anybody, you say ‘excuse me’ when you go to the net, it’s what’s going to happen.
“If I’m those guys, I can’t look Olie in the face. Probably the biggest game he’s played in years and they show up and do that for him. Those guys should all be hiding their eyes when they walk by Olie Kolzig tonight.”
The large crowd 17,932 was into it. They threw out a louder and heartier “O” than usual during the anthem. They joined in an abbreviated “O-lie, O-lie” chant immediately after the anthem. And they responded with a warm standing ovation when a 90-second tribute video to Kolzig was shown on the scoreboard after the first television timeout.
“It was great (the fan support),” said Kolzig. “It felt like old days. I really didn’t pay much attention to the video. It was really nice, but I’m not a big fan of being the center of attention, but it was really nice that they did that. I was flattered by the reception I got, but it’s time to move on. It will never be just another road game, but it won’t be as emotional as today.
“I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t nervous but that really didn’t have anything to do with spotting them three goals. I would have liked to have stopped one of those first two goals. My head was scrambled a little after the first two goals. I just told myself to keep battling. It was a bad start. We’ll just have to move on.”
When You’re Hot, You’re Hot – Poti scored a goal in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 29-30, 2003 when he was a member of the New York Rangers.
Slump Busters –Alex Ovechkin scored a third period goal to end his scoring drought at nine games, the longest dry spell of his NHL career. In beating Kolzig, Ovechkin has now scored against 55 different NHL netminders.
Green broke an eight-game scoring drought with his fifth goal of the season – and first at even strength – this season.
Fehr broke a 19-game goal drought that stretched back to last season. His goal on Monday night proved to be the game-winner, his first game winner since Jan. 27, 2007, which was also his first NHL goal.
Got Their Number – And it’s “six.” Washington has now defeated Tampa Bay in six straight games, setting a record for the longest winning streak in the series history between the two Southeast Division rivals.
O From The D – In their last three games, the Washington defense has combined for three goals and five assists and a plus-12.
Climbing the Ladder – Monday’s win lifted Washington into a first-place tie with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Caps head down to the RBC Center in Raleigh for a first-place battle with the Canes on Wednesday.
Washington is now six points behind the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers, and the Caps have four games in hand on the Blueshirts. They also have a game in hand on the Hurricanes.
North American Line – Washington’s top two lines have suffered from a tendency to get too cute or two fancy with the puck recently, and that was the case again on Monday night. The team’s top six forwards often made one pass too many, or passed the puck instead of taking shots from prime shooting areas.
The recently formed North American trio of Brooks Laich, David Steckel and Eric Fehr has given the team a unit that tends to play more old fashioned north and south hockey, and they had a solid night on the ice in Monday’s win over the Lightning.
“It was by far our best line,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “When we play with energy and you outwork the other team, you’re gonna have success. That’s why they had success. They scored once; they could have easily scored two or three. That’s not a line that can score two or three every game but they could have tonight. Thank goodness the working guys that normally work came to play.”
The Leader Board – Entering Monday night’s game against the Lightning, Washington’s Alexander Semin found himself high up on several of the league’s leader boards. Semin came into the game tied for second in goals (11) and second in points (21). He was also tied for the league lead in plus/minus at plus-11, even-strength points (14), lead-changing goals (seven), go-ahead goals (five), multiple-goal games (three) and go-ahead goals in the third period (two).
Semin leads the league outright with 10 even-strength goals, six third-period goals, four lead-changing goals in the third period, seven “late-game pressure” goals and is tied for third with eight third-period points.
Second Is The New Third – In six of the last seven games, the Caps have faced double-digit shot totals in the third period. Brent Johnson has been especially strong in the third period of games recently. Coming into Monday’s game, he had stopped 41 of 43 shots (.953 save pct.) in the third period and overtime of the previous three games. Against the Lightning, though, the second frame was Johnson’s busiest.
During a span of 11:13 at the end of the middle period, the Lightning outshot Washington 16-1. Johnson allowed just one goal – Gary Roberts’ first of the season and the game – during that stretch.
Johnny On A Roll – The last time Johnson started and earned a point for his team in as many as four consecutive games for his team was Dec. 23-29, 2002 when he won four in a row for the St. Louis Blues. He allowed five goals on those four games (1.25 GAA) and stopped 98 of 103 shots he faced.
Even Nicklas –Nicklas Backstrom’s first-period assist was his first even-strength point of season.
Get Well Soon – Our sincerest well wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Hershey Bears president-general manager Doug Yingst, who suffered some serious injuries as a result of a fall from the rook of his home in Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. Get well soon, Doug. We hope to see you back at Giant Center as soon as possible.
Shoot to Kill – Coming into Monday’s game, Tampa Bay had given up an average of 36.2 shots per game, the highest total in the league. It took the Caps a while to get their first shot, but they were right on the Lightning’s average with a dozen first period shots on goal.
Tampa Bay tightened up a bit after that, allowing just four Washington shots in a span of 21:01 from the middle of the second to the middle of the third.
Hurt in the First – Entering Monday night’s game, Tampa Bay had allowed a league-low total of five first period goals (in 13 games) on the season. The Lightning surrendered three first period strikes to the Capitals.
Recching Ball – It wouldn’t be a game if Mark Recchi didn’t find his way onto the scoresheet against Washington. With his second period assist, Recchi now has 106 career points against the Caps, one more than Wayne Gretzky (105). Marcel Dionne (108) is the all-time leader in points against Washington.
Odd Stat of the Night – This in today from Elias Sports Bureau: The Maple Leafs beat the Canadiens, 6-3, on Saturday and all nine goals were scored by European players: Toronto’s Niklas Hagman (Finland, 2 goals), Mikhail Grabovski (Belarus), Nik Antropov (Kazakhstan), Pavel Kubina (Czech Republic) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (Ukraine), and Montreal’s Robert Lang (Czech Republic), Tomas Plekanec (Czech Republic) and Saku Koivu (Finland).
The nine goals equaled the most ever in an NHL game in which all the goals were scored by players born outside North America. The only previous instance was the Maple Leafs’s 5-4 win over the Capitals in Nov. 26, 2002. The goal scorers in that game were Toronto’s Nik Antropov, Tomas Kaberle, Robert Reichel, Mikael Renberg and Robert Svehla, and Washington’s Dainius Zubrus, Calle Johansson, Michael Nylander and Ivan Ciernik.
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Martin St. Louis
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