Single Night – Two of the league’s top offensive clubs hooked up in a netminder’s duel on Tuesday night at Verizon Center. The Tampa Bay Lightning got a rebound goal from Martin St. Louis at 2:54 of the extra session tonight, and that was enough to lift the Lightning to a 1-0 overtime win over the Capitals.
Making his debut with the Lightning three days after being traded to Tampa Bay from the Islanders, veteran netminder Dwayne Roloson backstopped the Bolts to their first win in three tries against the Caps this season.
A day after he was named the NHL’s No. 1 star for the week ending Jan. 2, Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced against Tampa Bay. Just past the half way point of overtime, Varlamov made the 37th of those stops, a pad save on Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier.
All night long, Varlamov and/or his defense had been stellar at steering rebounds out of harm’s way. But none of the three Caps in front of the net picked up St. Louis, and he wristed the rebound of Lecavalier’s shot into a mostly vacant cage. St. Louis had kept the play alive in the Washington end, preventing the Caps from clearing their zone cleanly.
“I felt like I might have a chance for a play and I wanted to give our guys a chance for a second opportunity [in the Caps’ end],” says St. Louis of the sequence that led to his game-winning strike. “I just tried to go the middle and the puck ended up on my stick.”
The game was not a boring display of defense bereft of scoring chances. Both clubs had their opportunities, and it was often the top talents who were getting those chances.
Lecavalier had six of the Lightning’s 38 shots, and Steven Stamkos chipped in with four. Alex Ovechkin’s eight shots paced the Caps, and Alexander Semin chimed in with half a dozen shots on goal.
“We just didn’t find a rhythm,” laments Ovechkin. “We didn’t get rebounds. [The Lightning’s] defense played great and [Roloson] made unbelievable saves a couple of times.”
Tampa Bay started swiftly, outshooting the Capitals 12-5 in the first frame. The Lightning got all five of the overtime shots on goal, while Washington mustered 21 of its 34 shots on the night in the game’s middle frame.
“I think we played well defensively as a group tonight,” says Caps forward Matt Hendricks. “I don’t think our legs were there to get in on the forecheck and do the little things necessary to put pucks in the back of the net. But defensively I thought we played well.”
With the win, the Lightning vaults into sole possession of first place in the NHL’s Southeast Division.
The loss was Washington’s first by a 1-0 score since March 2, 2004 when the Florida Panthers and Roberto Luongo administered the whitewash by the thinnest of margins.
“It was a playoff atmosphere with the crowd and with the teams,” says Roloson of his first game with the Lightning. “It was a lot of fun to play that’s for sure.”
Zip-Lock – Tonight’s tilt was the first Caps game to end in a 0-0 deadlock after regulation since April 5, 2002 when Washington and Ottawa skated to a scoreless tie at Verizon Center.
Earlier that same season – on Jan. 14, 2002 – the Caps and Bruins played 60 scoreless minutes before Washington’s Dainius Zubrus put an end to the proceedings with a goal 13 seconds into overtime.
That Boston game came in the midst of then-Caps bench boss Ron Wilson’s brief dalliance with the “3-D” system, a system in which he dressed eight defensemen and 10 forwards for those games, deploying a 2-1-2 formation with three blueliners on the ice.
Shutout Hat Trick – Roloson has now blanked the Capitals three times during his NHL career, doing so with three different opponents: Minnesota, Edmonton and Tampa Bay. He becomes just the second goaltender ever to achieve that unique distinction against the Capitals.
Longtime NHL goalie Greg Millen whitewashed Washington while wearing the sweater of Pittsburgh, Hartford and St. Louis.
Roloson’s shutouts over the Caps have come in a span of just over eight years. Millen’s came over a stretch of more than nine and a half years.
The Spell Is Broken – The St. Louis goal ended a streak in which Varlamov had held the Lightning scoreless over part or all of three games dating back to last March 12. Prior to the St. Louis strike, Varlamov had stopped 66 straight Tampa Bay shots on goal over a span of 147 minutes and 42 seconds of action.
Stingy – In allowing a single goal to the Lightning tonight, Washington has now allowed just nine goals in its last seven games. The Caps are 5-0-2 during that stretch.
Washington has allowed just 14 goals in its last nine games, and is 5-1-3 during that run. The Caps have allowed more than two goals just once during those last nine games, a 3-2 loss at Boston on Dec. 18.
Power Outage – The Caps went 0-for-3 on the power play in Tuesday’s game. They are now 7-for-64 (10.9%) with the extra man in their last 17 games. washington has gone 17 games without putting up a crooked number on the power play, its longest drought since it went the last 18 games of the 2006-07 season without doing so (10-for-78, 12.8%).
Serial Killers – Washington killed off all three Lightning power play chances on the night to run their streak to 23 consecutive successful penalty kills. The Caps have killed 29 of 30 (96.7%) opposition power plays in the last eight games.
“I don’t know if we gave them a chance,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of his team’s shorthanded outfit. “They’ve been doing that for a couple of weeks now. It’s why I think our record is 6-0-2 [actually, 5-1-2] in the last eight games. It certainly isn’t because of the power play.”
Top Six – Tonight’s game marked the first time that the Caps’ top six defensemen in terms of average ice time suited up for the start of a game and made it through the entire night without injury since Scott Hannan was obtained in a Nov. 30 trade with Colorado.
Green led the group with 3:53 in power play time while Carlson’s 2:53 was tops while the team was shorthanded. Schultz led the way with 19:24 in even-strength ice time.
Poti was in the lineup for the first time since he left the Dec. 23 game against the Penguins with a first-period injury. His re-insertion into the lineup left John Erskine as a healthy scratch. It also marked the 23rd straight game in which Washington has made at least one lineup change from the previous contest.
Net Gain – Washington scored six goals in each of the first two meetings between the two teams this season, but was unable to get any of its 34 shots on goal past Roloson tonight.
Tampa Bay came into Tuesday’s game with a minus-1 goal differential, and incumbent netminders Dan Ellis (.886) and Mike Smith (.883) both sport dismal save percentages despite winning records. Roloson came to town with a .916 save pct. and that figure climbed to .920 (10th in the league) on the basis of his good work against the Capitals on Tuesday.
“We made that trade because we thought he would improve our team and tonight he did everything he could do to make that happen,” says Lightning head coach Guy Boucher. “I’m happy for him.”
Roloson is the 16th goaltender the Lightning has employed since Nikolai Khabibulin departed after the Cup-winning campaign of 2003-04. No other team has used more than 13 netminders during the same stretch, and Washington has deployed eight goalies during the same span.
By The Numbers – The Caps were charged with 17 giveaways to Tampa Bay’s five on the evening … Green led Washington with four hits while Mattias Ohlund paced the Lightning with five … The Capitals had 14 takeaways (led by three each from Swedish centers Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson) to the Lightning’s seven … The Bolts blocked 17 shots to Washington’s 10 … Led by David Steckel’s (13-for-18, 72%) circle work, the Caps won 58% of the game’s face-offs. Lecavalier (4-for-18, 22%) had a tough night for the Lightning in that department.
Martin St. Louis
1 - 0 TBL
Delaying Game-Puck over glass