Winning Ugly – Two points are two points, and every goal is a rocket from the slot in the box score. But neither coach is likely to be overly happy about his team’s performance in tonight’s sloppy, ugly yet fast-paced and exciting game, a 6-5 Capitals win over the Lightning that required a skills competition to determine a victor for standings purposes.
There were 10 goals scored, but neither team ever led by more than a goal or for more than 8:15 in duration.
The Lightning surrendered 43 shots on goal after permitting a combined total of 75 in its first two games. The Caps continuously carved through the heart of the Lightning defense with little resistance and dominated the attack zone.
Washington poured 85 shots toward Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who is two days shy of his 42nd birthday. Forty-three of those shots were on goal, 23 were blocked in front and 19 missed their mark altogether.
The Lightning mustered only 54 shot tries of their own, but they were aided by some fortuitous bounces and some mediocre netminding.
Making his debut in a Capitals’ sweater, goaltender Tomas Vokoun was dented for five goals on 28 shots, and some of those “shots” were more like centering passes.
Although Vokoun turned in what he termed his worst game in five years, he also made five saves in the overtime session, four of them while the Lightning was on the power play. Without those stops – and the ones he made in the skills competition – the Caps come away with one point and not two.
“If you asked Tomas,” begins Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “he’ll be the first to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script. I guess if you’re trying to look at the big picture, it takes a guy with a lot of mental toughness to play like that; and then in the overtime, when you’re having a 4-on-3 against you and you make those three of four huge saves.
“It told me a lot about his character, and it ends up being as a positive thing even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part.”
After the game, Vokoun was given the hard hat by his teammates, who obviously appreciated the gravity of his strange evening from dismal start to redeeming finish. And then he stood patiently in front of reporters and told them what a bad game he had.
“It was probably my worst game in five years,” laments Vokoun. “It just shows how strong this team is. They literally won tonight without goaltending. What can I say? Guys played hard. I think it was a great game from our side, but it should have been pretty much 5-2 at the worst.
“Right from the start, it didn’t go my way. It started being really choppy. Once you get on your heels, you start misreading the plays. It was just an ugly, ugly, ugly game for me.
“We won the game, certainly no thanks to me. But the team played great and I think it shows a lot of character. Our guys battled; came back four times. I’m going to make a promise. I’m going to [pay] them back sometime when they need me.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher was philosophical about the setback.
“It was a weird game,” says Boucher. “When we watch the other teams play on TV it’s the same thing. It’s the beginning of the year so guys are fumbling pucks, [making] turnovers when you usually don’t. Weird pucks going in.
“Basically, it was a dogfight. We didn’t lose it at even-strength. We lost it in a shootout. It’s much better than the first time we were hear last year; last year we got our butts kicked [on our first visit].”
Torrid Pace – Last season, Caps winger Jason Chimera notched his third goal of the season on Nov. 3 in the Caps’ 12th game of the season.
With two goals tonight and one in the opener, Chimera has three goals in two games, erasing his previous fastest start (three goals in five games in 2005-06) to start an NHL season.
Chimera had seven shots on goal in Monday’s game, matching the second-highest single-game total of his NHL career. He rifled 10 shots on net while with Columbus against Anaheim on April 7, 2007 in the final regular season game of the 2006-07 campaign.
Also, playing alongside linemates Brooks Laich and Joel Ward, Chimera and his checking line cohorts kept Lightning luminaries Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos off the scoresheet.
“Just three guys working hard,” says Chimera. “We all really take pride in going against their number one line and playing really good defense. And mostly when you play good defense, it leads to good offense.”
Setting The Tone – in addition to getting his first goal as a Capital, Washington winger Troy Brouwer consistently bounced Bolts bodies all night. For the second game in a row, he paced the Capitals in hits, registering seven.
Among all NHL players, only the Dallas Stars’ Steve Ott (17) and Mark Fistric (16) have more hits than Brouwer. And Ott and Fistric have each played in one more game than Brouwer.
No More Nights Off – A healthy scratch for Saturday’s season opener, sophomore Caps center Marcus Johansson came out like a guy who’d been blasted from a cannon right from his first shift of the night.
On his second shift of the game, he scored Washington’s first goal of the contest. He added an assist in the second, and finished up with two points and four shots on goal to show for his 15:41 of work.
“I always try to play my own game and play as hard as I can,” says Johansson. “My legs felt good and the whole team worked hard and it was easier to play and tonight it worked. Hopefully, we’ll keep it going that way.”
Lightning defenseman Bruno Gervais, who came to the Bolts as a free agent in the off-season, got into the lineup after sitting out Tampa Bay’s first two games as a healthy scratch. He delivered a goal and an assist in the first 8:35 of the game.
O From The D – For the second straight game, the Caps benefited from a multiple-point offensive effort from their blueliners. In Saturday’s season-opening win over the Carolina Hurricanes, Caps defensemen combined for a goal and three assists. Tonight, they had a goal and two helpers.
Two games into the season, only Roman Hamrlik is without a point among Washington’s six defensemen.
Keep It Even – The Caps have allowed a total of just 39 even-strength shots on goal in their first two games this season. They’ve surrendered 19 power play shots on goal in those two tilts.
Spreading The Scoring – Fifteen of the 19 skaters the Capitals have dressed in their first two games this season have contributed on the scoresheet with a goal or an assist.
Spreading The Minutes – Eric Brewer led the Lightning defense with 27:43 in ice time. Gervais brought up the rear in that regard with 12:06.
On the Washington side of the ledger, Mike Green was on top at 24 minutes even. Schultz was sixth among the blueliners at 16:06.
First Strike – The Caps were 4-1-1 in the six regular season games that played against the Lightning last season, with one of those victories coming in a shootout. The Caps scored the game’s first goal in three of those games.
Washington failed to score first in any of the four playoff games between the two clubs last spring, and obviously dropped all four of those decisions.
Tonight, the Lightning again scored first but ended up on the short end of the score.
By The Numbers – Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman skated a dozen shifts in the first, four more than any Caps’ player skated in that frame … The Caps won just five of 17 (29%) face-offs in the first but rebounded to finish with 32 wins in 66 draws (48%) on the night … Ten different Capitals and eight different members of the Lightning took at least one face-off in the game … For the second straight game, Laich led all Washington forwards in ice time (23:31) … Brewer led the Lightning with six hits and seven blocked shots … Hamrlik led the Caps with four blocked shots … The two teams combined for 17 shots on goal on a combined total of 11 power play chances, but all 10 goals in the game were scored at even strength … The Lightning is now a perfect 18-for-18 on the penalty kill in the young season.
1 - 0 TBL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 TBL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 TBL
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 WSH
4 - 4 Tie