The Caps were missing T.J. Oshie, and the Lightning were missing Steven Stamkos. Small wonder that both teams came into the game on losing streaks, the Caps on a two-game skid, the Lightning losers of their last four contests. It was the Lightning ending their streak and sending the Caps to a third straight loss, 2-1, in a Gimmick at Amelie Arena in Tampa.
It was an uncharacteristically low-scoring game between these teams, five of the last six games featuring the winner scoring at least four goals. Each team would have to be satisfied with one in 65 minutes of actual hockey, though. Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the second period on a power play when Nikita Kucherov one-timed a pass from Victor Hedman from the right wing circle off the near post and behind goalie Braden Holtby 12:38 into the period.
That goal held up until the seventh minute of the third period when the Caps scored a power play goal of their own. Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson played back and forth with the puck, Carlson pulling the puck back along the inside of the Tampa Bay blue line to open up the right wing for a pass back to Backstrom. Taking the puck at the right point, Backstrom circled down to the top of the right wing circle and snapped a shot past a stacked screen of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, and past the glove of goalie Ben Bishop at the 6:24 mark.
And that would be all for the scoring. A lively five-minute overtime that featured nine shots combined for the two teams yielded no scoring, and it was off to the trick shot competition. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for the Caps on a deke and a wrap-around Bishop’s right pad, but Brayden Point tied it up for Tampa Bay, and Brian Boyle won it with a goal in the fourth round for the 2-1 final score.
-- Ben Bishop has never had much success against the Caps since he arrived in Tampa. In eight appearances against the Caps as the Lightning goalie, he was 1-5-1 (one no-decision), 3.68, .882, and only once had he allowed as few as two goals in an appearance. On this night he stopped 34 of 35 shots faced.
-- The Caps scored a power play goal, their first in three games, but it took them ten shots to do it. Nicklas Backstrom scored on the Caps’ tenth power play shot of the night. They finished with 11.
-- Although the Caps scored on one of their six power plays, it was that sixth power play that was a short summary of their power play lately. In overtime, with a 4-on-3 advantage, the Caps had a face off in the Lightning end with 33.5 seconds left. It took the Caps almost 25 seconds to get a shot on goal, their only shot on goal on the abbreviated power play.
-- Alex Ovechkin does not have a goal in four games since his hat trick against St. Louis on the night before Thanksgiving, but he does have five minor penalties. He took two more tonight.
-- Paul Carey had his first action of the year, one game late after coming down with an illness that kept him out of the loss to the Islanders on Thursday. In 12 minutes of ice time, he recorded…well, nothing. His line on the score sheet is without a mark in any column.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov did have three shots on goal, and his trick shot turn was nifty, but it still looks as if he is passing up good shooting opportunities, especially in the first period when he was in deep and tried to slide a pass back through the slot to Jakub Vrana. Nothing came of the play as the puck slid off to the right wing boards.
-- The difference in this game, at least to the extent the Caps could not dent Bishop, was that the Lightning put pucks on net (33 shots on goal in 45 shot attempts), while the Caps were misfiring (35 shots on 63 shot attempts). That 56.0 percent Corsi-for at fives looks good for the fancy-statters, but one goal with that kind of possession advantage, and that coming on a power play, makes for small consolation.
-- Braden Holtby stopped 32 of 33 shots, the first time he allowed fewer than three goals in five games, since he shut out the Detroit Red Wings, 1-0, on November 18th.
-- The Caps got 13 shots on goal from defensemen, six of them from John Carlson (he had 11 shot attempts to lead the team). Nate Schmidt was the only defenseman not recording a shot on goal.
-- The trick shot competition left the Caps in an odd place in that phase of the game this season. They now have three goals on eight shots, a 37.5 shooting percentage. They also have three saves on eight shots, a .375 save percentage.
In the end…
The Caps got a point. That said, they look like a team that is employing 18 different play books for their skaters. The power play is still meandering. The even strength play tentative. There are moments here and there (Justin Williams had more than a few good ones in this game with nothing to show for it), but not enough of them strung together to establish any momentum. And Alex Ovechkin seems to be in a goal drought that has been an odd feature of his season to date (he is four games without a goal, his third streak of three or more without one this season). Braden Holtby played well, and the Caps team defense did hold the Lightning to a low total of 5-on-5 shot attempts. But not nearly enough players are lifting their game at the moment, and when that happens, this happens.