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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Capitals 3, Lightning 1

Tonight Alex Ovechkin returned from a league-mandated hiatus of 2 games. He returned with a vengeance, scoring the game-winning goal on a breakaway from a bank-pass from Nicklas Backstrom at 10:47 of the first period to break a 1-1 tie.  He fired 7 shots on net, loosed 6 more that missed or were blocked, and he had 1 hit in 22:52 of ice time.  Ovie is back.

Nice goal by the Eric Fehr-David Steckel-Tomas Fleischmann line early in the first period to set the tone.  Judging by the timing of the passing play from Steckel to Fehr then cross-crease to Flash, you wouldn't guess that line just got put together.

Speaking of those two goals, the Caps managed just four shots on goal in the first period, two off the blade of Scott Walker and two that went in.  They were outshot 13-4 in the first period and 34-28 on the night, but it didn't matter tonight.  

The Capitals' penalty kill looked pretty good tonight.  They didn't allow a goal and went 5/5 on the PK.  Two concerns:  The first is that we gave Tampa 5 power plays.  It's not a good idea to give a team with a 38% conversion rate against you a bunch of powerplays.  The second was the Caps penchant for letting the Lightning loose for a couple chances.  For most of the powerplays the Caps cleared the puck, pressured the puck and kept the Bolts to the outside, but there were several instances where the Caps allowed the Lightning to break loose and get some great looks, and Tampa had 12 powerplay shots.

Speaking of penalties, there were two of the dumb variety tonight, the boarding calls notwithstanding.  John Carlson's hold on Steven Stamkos was unnecessary, Stamkos was far to the outside and out of a normal scoring zone when Carlson held him.  I'm not sure what the urgency was to keep him from going into the corner, but it could be chalked up as a rookie mistake.

The second dumb penalty was Tom Poti's rough on Steve Downie.  I know how satisfying it is to hit the jerk on the other team, I've been there, but Poti had just drawn a penalty that would have negated a Tampa powerplay and would have given the Caps a short powerplay when he did it.  What he did reeked of selfishness and seemed like a rookie mistake.

I'm also not a fan of the Too Many Men On The Ice penalty.  Didn't we learn our lesson last game with the disallowed goal?

Enough with the disallowed goals.  Two goals waved off against Carolina was enough, but there was another disallowed goal tonight when Ovechkin got tied up with a Lightning defender and knocked the net off it's moorings just as Mike Knuble drove home a shot.  Then there was the second time a Lightning player "accidentally" knocked the net off, when Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin were pressuring the goal on the penalty kill.  Baloney.

Speaking of the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble line, they had three great chances in the first period, one of which was a goal, the second was waved off, and the third great chance drew a penalty and Jon Carlson hit the post with the goalie pulled.

Speaking of Jason Chimera, he just seems to get faster all the time.  He created all sorts of trouble for the Lightning defense with his speed and had a couple good chances.

Good on Scott Walker to get into a fight with NHL penalty minute leader Zenon Konopka.  I just hope he's okay, he only played 4:28 on the night, none after the fight.

Last but not least was Jose Theodore.  He only allowed one goal on 34 Lightning shots and blanked them on 9 minutes of powerplay time to earn #1 Star of the game.  What Jeff Schultz was doing leaving Vincent Lecavalier alone in front of the goal is a mystery, but the only goal Theodore allowed came uncontested off the stick of a 50-goal scorer from 15 feet away.

Other Notes:
-Congratulations to Nicklas Backstrom who tied his career high with his 88th point to remain tied for 3rd in league scoring with Sidney Crosby.  He is now tied for 7th on the Capitals single-season assist ledger with Dale Hunter and Dennis Maruk with his 59th assist.

-Congrats to Alex Ovechkin who tied Dennis Maruk for 6th on the Caps single-season points list with his 97th point on the season.

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