Saturday, March 20, 2010

A TWO-point night: Caps 3 - Lightning 1

The Caps finished up their four-game road trip tonight with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, bringing their record to 3-0-1 on the trip, upping their record to 7-1-2 since the Olympic break, and putting some more distance between themselves and second place in the East.

It was a chippy game from start to finish, not surprising with Lightning coach Rick Tocchet giving jerseys to Zenon Konopka and Steve Downie. Both of those players did what they do, Konopka getting into a scrap with Scott Walker for the Caps, while Downie yapped a lot and took a dumb penalty late in the third period with the Lightning down 3-1, effectively ending whatever chance the Lightning had for a comeback.

While those two were doing what they do, the Caps did what they do. Tomas Fleischmann potted an early goal, Alex Ovechkin got one on a breakaway, and Alexander Semin got one in the third period to cement the win. Jose Theodore made it all stand up by stopping 33 of 34 shots for his 26th win.

Other stuff…

-- First period shots for the Caps… four. Scott Walker was the only Cap with two. He was also the only Cap who didn’t get a goal on a shot. Tomas Fleischmann and Alex Ovechkin scored on their only shots of the period.

-- Think Tampa Bay dominated the territorial battle in the first two periods? They out-attempted the Caps in shots 23-10 in the first period, 19-13 in the second. They won the faceoff battle 14-4 in the second period. The Lightning had 12 power play shots through two periods, while the Caps had a total of 13 shots. That the Caps held a 2-1 lead after one period, then two, was miraculous. Or the product of some locked in goaltending by Jose Theodore. No softies, no rebounds where Lightning could get to them.

-- Then came the third period… the Caps outshot Tampa Bay 16-8, they out attempted them 24-16. That’s called “slamming the door.”

-- Good thing, too. The Caps took four penalties in the second period (one fighting major and four minor penalties). That followed taking three minors in the first period, one of them a too-many-men-on-the-ice call with less than two seconds left in the period and the Caps on a power play. That’s called “playing with fire.”

-- The third period couldn’t save the Cap in the circle, though… they were 22 up and 36 down. No one not named “Steckel” finished as well as .500 (David Steckel was 9-for-17). But as bad as the Caps were in the circle overall, they were still just one short of .500 in the defensive zone (10-for-21).

-- Alex Ovechkin had one hit tonight, recorded when he drilled Nate Thompson along the boards midway through the third period. He was roundly booed… get used to it. Every time he hits someone, he (or the referee) is going to hear it.

-- The event summary says Eric Belanger played tonight. For the life of me, I can’t remember seeing him out there. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’m thinking more the latter.

-- Eric Fehr might not be the most efficient offensive player in the league, but he can see the top from where he is. 10 minutes, he gets an assist on a swell feed to the crease to set up Tomas Fleischmann’s goal to open the scoring. That makes a four-game points streak for Fehr, during which he’s averaged 11:08 a game in ice time. He has a point in seven of his last nine games.

-- Mike Green led the Caps in hits tonght. I will repeat that… Mike Green led the Caps in hits tonight.

-- Mike Green led both teams in hits tonight. No, seriously… Mike Green led both teams in hits tonight.

-- Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Steve Downie… 0-0-0, -4. They did have nine shots on goal though, testimony to how well Jose Theodore played.

-- Check Theodore’s jersey and pads. We could swear, they were made of Velcro. Nothing got loose where a Lightning player could pounce on it. The only goal he allowed came when Jeff Schultz lost track of Vincent Lecavalier, who put back a second chance while Schultz was looking for him.

-- That makes 16-0-2, 2.40, .927 and a shutout for Theodore since losing to the Bolts on January 12th.

-- That was the first time since the season’s opening night against Boston that the Caps were perfect in killing five or more penalties in a road game (5-for-5).

-- You could tell Joe Corvo took a seat tonight… Mike Green had 6:36 in power play ice time.

-- OK, we’ll ask… how many players on the planet make that pass that Nicklas Backstrom made to spring Alex Ovechkin loose for his goal? It might not be just one – Backstrom – but it’s not more than three.

-- In 1983-1984 the Caps won 22 road games to set a club record. That record was tied tonight with the win. The Caps are 22-10-6 with three road games remaining (Carolina, Columbus, Pittsburgh).

-- This was the Caps’ 48th win to put them within two of the club record for wins in a season with ten games left.

-- If the NHL ever puts “yapping” in the rule book as a minor penalty, Steve Downie will never see NHL ice again.

You would have to be rather picky to find a lot of fault with the Caps on this road trip. A 3-0-1 record, outscoring the opposition 17-11, 4-for-16 on the power play, and perhaps most important, they were 14-for-16 on the penalty kill (87.5 percent).

Now the Caps have four days off to get ready to host the Penguins at Verizon Center. If the Penguins lose Monday at Detroit against the Red Wings, they will come to Verizon Center on Wednesday with no better than 91 points, trailing Washington by at least 15 points with nine games left to them to play. If that is the case, the Caps could be in a position to eliminate the Penguins from the Eastern Conference title contention on Wednesday.

Sort of makes the game worth going to, doesn’t it?

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