The Capitals let a game slip through their grasp tonight. They had the hangover of winning the Southeast Division with 15 games to go in their season, and didn't attack Tampa Bay nearly enough to score at even strength.
-Who would have thought that the Caps would have lost on a night when they only took one penalty, didn't allow a powerplay goal and scored two of their own, and snapped Steven Stamkos' 17-game points streak and held Martin St. Louis pointless?
-Lightning Coach Rick Tocchet finally figured out the key to beating the Caps was to play Antero Niittymaki. Niitty came in to tonight with a 6-2-1 record versus the Caps with a 2.38 GAA and a .926 save percentage. He robbed the Caps on numerous occasions, particularly in a 5 second span in the first minute of the second period when he robbed Eric Fehr and Brendan Morrison twice, capping it off with an amazing glove save. Tampa Bay's defense was wonderful on that play, of course, all 5 Lightning were in front of the goal and not a single Caps player had been knocked down.
-I can't really blame Semyon Varlamov tonight, even though he could have been better on Tampa Bay's first goal. It was scored on a 2-on-1 in which Mike Green got caught in no man's land and couldn't recover. If Shaone Morrisonn had been able to challenge Brandon Bochenski, he wouldn't have been able to get off such a nice shot. I know Varly was off his angle a bit, but it was a great shot on a tough play, and any night your team doesn't score 3 goals it's tough to win hockey games.
-The Capitals were money on faceoffs tonight: Brendan Morrison was 9-3 (75%), David Steckel was 7-2 (78%), Nicklas Backstrom was 10-7 (58%), and even Tomas Fleischmann was 6-5 (55%). The only Cap to be below 50% on faceoffs tonight? Brooks Laich, who lost his only faceoff, a clean loss in the defensive zone which led directly to Tampa Bay's second goal. Losing a defensive zone draw cleanly is taboo for that very reason. It was Laich's only bad play on the night.
-The Capitals penalty kill improved drastically, killing off the only Tampa powerplay. The only Capital penalty came when Tyler Sloan made a bad pinch and Matt Bradley had to slash a Lightning on the odd man break the other way. The penalty kill had good pressure and ragged the puck well. The only player they let hang onto the puck for any length of time was Martin St. Louis, and he was well to the outside for most of the time he had possession. The Capitals penalty kill improved to 11 for 18, or 61.1%, against the Lightning.
-Speaking of penalties, the Caps speed led to a couple power plays tonight, especially thanks to Fleischmann and Jason Chimera.
-The Capitals powerplay was excellent tonight, going 2-4, and those two they didn't score on they should have. They shot the puck, they had good traffic and good puck movement.
-Alex Ovechkin was a passing wizard tonight. Right before Paul Szczechura took a penalty in the first period, Ovechkin made a gutsy cross-ice pass to Nicklas Backstrom through several players. He finished the night with two assists, including a nifty seam pass to Fleischmann for a one-timer, to move him closer to Joe Juneau's record of 70. His other assist came on a nice goal by Laich, who not only screen Niitty, but he tipped the puck on the way and snatched a rebound. Classic garbage, just what this team needed.
-Who would have thought that Tomas Fleischmann would have more goals than Vincent Lecavalier? Fleischmann set a new career high with his 20th goal on the season, Lecavalier scored his 19th tonight, off his arm.
-I don't think it can be said enough: #needsmorebradley. Only 8:27 for The Professor ain't cutting it.
-Mike Green recorded his 50th assist of the season, a career high and he joins some elite company in Capitals history, joining Scott Stevens, Larry Murphy, and Kevin Hatcher as the only Caps defensemen to record 50 assists in a season.
-And of course: Comcast Fail. Six Tampa players on the ice definitely means it's a powerplay for the Caps.
They didn't realize their mistake after the Caps had scored their powerplay goal and let the clock tick down to zero for a full minute of even strength play.