Thursday, March 1, 2007

Capitals Fail to Finish Off Lighnting

Caps Blow a Two Goal Third Period Lead and Once Again Fall in a Shootout
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Washington Capitals 4 F/SO

(Photo Courtesy of Nick Wass/AP)

First, I just want to say that as I write this I am not feeling too good. So bear with me if I ramble a little bit. Now, after the disclaimer, on to the recap:

Coming into tonight's game, given the circumstances surrounding both teams, you could not have asked for a better performance from this Capitals team.

After going through the first ten minutes of the game without recording a shot, the Caps made their first flurry count. Shaone Morrisonn continued the team's recent trend of offensive production from their defenseman when he broke the scoreless tie at the 11:35 mark. His slap shot from the point as their power play expired beat goaltender Johan Holmqvist thanks to a screen in front from tough guy Donald Brashear. It was Morrisonn's 3rd goal of the season, a new career high for the 24-year old blue liner.

After a Vinny Prospal sharp angle goal tied the game, Washington was able to build a two goal advantage in the second period. Center Jiri Novotny tallied his first point in his Capitals' debut on a wonderful setup pass to Alex Ovechkin, who wristed home a wicked shot into the top right corner. The goal was Ovechkin's 38th of the season and extended his current goal scoring streak to three games, as it seems his slump is well behind him now.

Later in the period the Caps received a gift from the Lightning after a miscommunication between Holmqvist and his defensemen led to a Matt Pettinger goal. Holmqvist seemed to be trying to play the puck following his save on a Boyd Gordon shot, while his defensemen thought his intentions were to cover the puck. The result led to the loose puck finding the stick of Pettinger who converted on his second attempt at the net for his 15th goal of the season.

But the Capitals could not hold off the high powered Tampa offense and three critical plays saw the Caps trailing for the first time in the game with 3:18 remaining in the third period.

First, they allowed the Lightning to cut the lead to one with just 28 seconds remaining in the second period. In a 2 on 2 situation, Ruslan Fedotenko beat Erskine with a lateral move and snapped the puck past Brent Johnson.

Second, with the Caps on the power play and only eight minutes remaining in the game, a pass back to the point bounced over the stick of Brian Pothier and sent Martin St. Louis in on a breakaway. The puck ended up rolling off his stick, but he was able to recover and feed Vincent Lecavalier who finished off the play for his NHL leading 42nd goal of the season.

Lastly, a Novotny and Fleichmann collision in the neutral zone lead to another 2 on 2 situation. St. Louis this time was the beneficiary of a Lecavalier pass as he tipped it past Johnson for his 39th of the season and a 4-3 Lightning lead.

Washington would respond however, thanks to two Tampa penalties in the final minutes of the game, giving them a seldom seen 6 on 3 situation after they pulled Johnson for the extra skater. The first penalty went to Cory Sarich on a delay of game in his own defensive corner. He had lost his stick and presumed to cover the puck with his glove leading to the penalty. Fourty-one seconds later Eric Perrin hooked Alexander Semin to set up the three man advantage.

The Caps would make them pay as a Semin backdoor pass to Kris Beech was inadvertently deflected past Holmqvist by Lightning defenseman Nolan Pratt. Semin's 33rd goal of the year tied the score at 4 with just 11 seconds remaining. And following a scoreless overtime that saw power play opportunities for both teams, we were once again headed to the dreaded shootout.

While it was definitely entertaining, it was another frustrating outcome for Washington as they failed to score on 10 straight attempts, and dropped their record to 1-10 in shootouts on the year. Both goalies were spectacular in the shootout as the lone goal was scored in the 10th round by Nick Tarnasky.

For the first time this season Ovechkin was not among the Capitals first three shooters. However when neither team was able to score, he was the first one out in the sudden death attempts. Ovechkin's miss dropped him to 1 for 11 on the season in shootout opportunities.

After the six attempt, which was unsuccessful by Kris Beech, Glen Hanlon made some interesting choices with his last 4 shooters. Ben Clymer, Brian Pothier, Donald Brashear, and Matt Bradley are all not known for their goal scoring prowess. And they all made pathetic attempts by not even making any moves and just trying to beat Holmqvist with straight shots. All the while Pettinger, who has been one of their most successful shooters, sat on the bench. I wonder what was behind that move?

Still, even with another shootout loss, you have to be impressed with the Capitals performance tonight. They were able to take a two goal lead on one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and didn't panic when they fell behind late in the third period for the first time. Hopefully they also learned something along the way to help in their development process.

Game Notes:

Brian Muir was the only healthy scratch. Chris Clark and Eric Fehr continued to be medically scratched.... RW Jason Ward and LW Karl Stewart, who were acquired by the Lightning at the trading deadline, made their debuts tonight.


kenhockey said...

I was at the game, and Pothier's screw up giving the short-handed goal killed it for the Caps. This guy makes too much money to make those kind of mistakes. The Caps worked too hard to have the game be lost due to that carelessness.

Biff said...

Pettinger was apparently injured during the third period.