The Capitals took the ice on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning after four days of much needed rest. Washington has not had the best of luck recently, as they have lost six of their last seven games. The metropolitan division is starting to tighten up amongst the other teams, so points are beginning to become crucial. The Lightning have been one of the hotter teams as of late in the NHL, but starting goalie Ben Bishop was recently put on IR. So Anders Lindback was squaring off against Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer.
The first frame of action was off to a quick start as the Lightning struck first (no pun intended). After Ondrej Palat intercepted Troy Brouwer’s pass near the blue line, rookie Tyler Johnson finished a one on one opportunity to put Tampa Bay up, just over four minutes into the first period. Washington responded shortly after on an odd man rush. Ovechkin found Eric Fehr on the 3 on 2 odd man rush, and Fehr wristed it past Lindback to tie the game up.
Nate Thompson got a tripping minor near the halfway mark of the first period and the Caps special teams made them pay. Mike Green at first appeared to have the power play goal, but Mikhail Grabovski tipped it in for his 12th goal of the season. The power play was at work once again at the tail end of the first, when Valtteri Filppula hooked Nicklas Backstrom. Just seconds after the penalty, Marcus Johansson stuffed it through Lindback to put the Caps up 3-1 with just 11 seconds left in the first period. Washington had a 3-1 lead at the conclusion of the first frame, a tremendous start on the road.
The second period of action began and the Caps were quickly on the penalty kill; Backstrom was the guilty culprit on a hooking minor. Washington’s penalty kill did their job in killing off the only power play opportunity Tampa Bay had all game. Just under seven minutes into the second, BJ Crombeen ended his 56-game scoring drought, cutting the deficit to just one goal. It was not a good play by John Erskine in the offensive zone, which led to Crombeen coming down the ice with time and room for a nice wrist shot. Tampa Bay outshot the Caps 11 to 6 during the second, but the road team still had a one-goal lead.
Entering the third, Washington still had the one goal lead and Grubauer did everything he could to preserve it. Washington was on a power play just under two minutes into the period, but the best scoring chance was not from the road team. Tampa got the odd man rush short handed and Grubauer made the save of the season, robbing Ondrej Palat on the cross crease tip attempt. Grubauer put on the full split and just got a piece of the puck, keeping the Caps one goal lead. Palat later got his redemption, tipping a Matt Carle shot from the outside. The game-tying goal came with just five and a half minutes left in the third frame. It seemed like déjà-vu for the Caps, another bad bounce went against them. The difference this time, they responded.
When it seemed like another overtime game was in the cards for Washington, Dmitri Orlov held the line just in time to move the puck to Mike Green. For the second time this game, Green had a shot from the outside tipped in past Lindback. Eric Fehr was awarded the tip in goal, his second of the game. It came with just 52 seconds left in the game and the Caps held on to win.
This was a huge win for the Capitals on the road against a very good Tampa Bay hockey club. The win put an end to a frustrating losing streak the Caps had heading into this game. A couple of notes to take away from this game:
Philipp Grubauer got the start in net and was the ultimate difference maker in this game. He made 33 saves on 36 shots, making the saves he was supposed to make and even ones that he technically was not supposed to make. His save on Palat was the best save of the season and really saved this game. The young goalie is now 6-2-3 in his rookie season.
The “second” line that consisted of Grabovski, Fehr and Ovechkin was all over the ice. They were creating scoring chances throughout the entire game. Fehr recorded two goals, Grabo had one and Ovechkind had at least 4 great chances as well. Ovechkin had one feed from Karl Alzner that he usually puts home, but just didn’t get his stick into it. Ovi also hit the inside cross bar in the third period. Not his best night scoring, but he did make plays getting the rest of his line mates involved.
Mike Green recorded his 200th assist and 300th point against Tampa. Green has started to get better involved in the offense as of late, which is essential to Washington’s success going forward. Simply put, when Mike Green is making plays offensively, this team is more dangerous, especially on the power play. The power play was also great tonight, going 2 for 3.
Washington is back in action right away as they face off at the Verizon Center against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a good time for the Caps to get on a streak here, because their upcoming schedule is tough. Luckily for them, the next three games are at the Verizon Center. Winning these next few home games are crucial because they then take to the road against Pittsburgh and then Columbus. Their next home opponents after the Leafs are the Sabres and Sharks.