Thursday, February 15, 2007

Caps Steal A Point in Tampa

Zubrus Ties it with 15 Seconds Remaining, But They Fall to 1-8 in Shootouts this Season as St. Louis Nets Game Winner
Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Washington Capitals 2 F/SO

A gutsy all around effort allowed the Caps to escape Tampa with a point against one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Tampa entered the contest having won 13 of their last 16 games, while the Capitals had lost 10 of their last 11 on the road.

Those story lines did not carry over into the first period as the Capitals got off to a good start and their sound technical play led to one of their best all around periods of the season. After a good forechecking shift by rookie Eric Fehr caused Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle to take a holding penalty, Alexander Semin continued his good play against Southeast division opponents. Just 4 seconds into the power play opportunity, following a Danius Zubrus faceoff win, Semin fired a shot that deflected off a Lightning defenseman and through the pads of goaltender Marc Denis for his 30th goal of the season and a 1-0 Washington lead. He now has 17 goals and 28 points in 21 games against divisional opponents this season. The Caps also played well defensively, holding Tampa to just 8 shots and took a lead into the first intermission.

The second period however, resembled more of the recent poor play of the Caps on the road. Just 13 seconds in, the team was called for too many men on the ice. After surviving the penalty Brent Johnson immediately sent the team back to the box after playing the puck in the trapezoid area behind the net. The Lightning made them pay scoring 12 seconds into the power play on a Vincent Lecavalier slap shot from the right circle.

Less than five minutes later the Lightning captain would strike again while the Caps were on the power play. Brian Pothier, returning to action after missing ten games with a concussion, turned the puck over in his own zone to Martin St. Louis who found Lecavalier in front of the net for his NHL leading 39th goal of the season and a 2-1 lead. He now has 7 goals and 10 points in the Lightning's 5 games against Washington this season.

The score would remain that way until the very end of the third period. With Brent Johnson on the bench, giving the Capitals the extra skater, Lecavalier turned the puck over in his own zone. His clearing attempt went right to the stick of Zubrus in the slot, who one-timed it over the catching glove of Denis for his 20th goal of the season that tied the game at 2 with just 15 seconds remaining.

Martin St. Louis would provide the lone goal in the shootout to send the Lightning fans home happy with two critical points. The win moved Tampa just one point behind the idle Thrashers for first place in the division.

It was another frustrating game for Alex Ovechkin. He seemed to again have trouble controlling the puck early on as time after time the puck would roll off his stick as he tried to maneuver around the Lighting defense. When he finally was able to get some good scoring chances in the third period, Marc Denis had all the answers repeatedly denying him with his catching glove. Ovechkin now has just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last six games.

Game Notes:

Before the game Washington activated defenseman John Erskine and placed Lawrence Nycholat on injured reserve with what the team described as an "illness".... Milan Jurcina led all players in ice time with 28:55.... Ben Clymer, Kris Beech, and Steve Eminger were healthy scratches.... The point moved the Caps into a tie with Florida for 13th in the Eastern Conference, just nine points behind Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot.

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