Caps Blasted in Tampa, 7-4

January 12, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

13 is indeed the unluckiest number. The Washington Capitals had defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 12 straight times under Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau but tonight they came out flat in the opening period to fall behind 4-1, rallied to tie it at four goals apiece in the middle stanza, before giving up the final three tallies to lose 7-4. This defeat ends Washington’s three game winning streak and drops their overall record to 27-12-6 and now 9-2 against Southeast Division foes.

Let’s get right to the highlights (or mostly lowlights for Washington), quotes, and analysis:

Oh, where to start in this one…the Caps missed their regular morning skate because apparently they can’t make ice when it is actually cold in Florida (the literally stinking circus was a factor in the bad ice too based on Joe B’s commentary). Whether that led to the poor first period effort and bad mental focus, I have no idea? The team did not move their feet in the first period and they took STUPID penalties all game. Brooks Laich goalie interference, poor decision, result: Steve Stamkos goal; Tom Poti lazy cross-check, result: another Stamkos goal; Laich trip, result: St. Louis GW goal. The first six penalties Washington took were totally dumb and unnecessary and the Lightning scored on 4 of those 6 power plays (they would go 4 for 7 on the night).

“Obviously in the last two games we didn’t come prepared to play and that has got to be my fault..we got lucky in Atlanta because the goaltending was great and then we took over but today the penalty killing obviously struggled and they got four on us. It is difficult to come back when a team gets a 4-1 lead on you in the first period,” said Boudreau following the contest.

CSN+, or CSN- as I call it, picked Mike Green (2 goals) as the player of the game. I don’t know what contest they were watching but #52 was -3 and was brutal in his own zone. But Green wasn’t the worst defensemen on the ice, that award goes to Shaone Morrisonn who was just terrible going -3 in just over 14 minutes of ice time. In fact, he was so bad he was on the ice for none of the Caps goals and all seven of the Lightning goals (thanks @JapersRink)!! Tyler Sloan was awful as well looking incredibly slow against Tampa, especially in the first 25 minutes. #89 had not played since December 28th (a 6-3 loss to Carolina) so he has an excuse but does this guy really belong in the NHL instead of Karl Alzner right now? For that matter isn’t 27 a better option than 26 given the potential upside of the 5th player taken in the 2007 NHL Entry draft? Defenseman John Erskine did not play due to injury and the team not only missed his defense but also his toughness, but more on that later.

The best Caps defenseman tonight and player of the game, if I was picking:  Jeff Schultz. #55 had 1 assist, was +2, wasn’t on the ice for any Tampa goal (including the power play tallies), and took 0 penalties in 23:44 of ice time. Too bad Boudreau couldn’t put Sarge on for the entire game because it seems the other team never scores when his number is called. Schultz plays an ultra simple and positionally sound hockey game.

Now to the goaltending. Michael Neuvirth (11 saves on 15 shots) got the start and made some great early stops to try and keep Washington in it but the poor effort was too much to overcome. Mike Knuble’s boneheaded cross ice pass in his own zone led to a 2 on 0 Lightning break that was easily finished by Vincent Lecavalier for the first marker and the 2nd goal by Stamkos was off of a Foster blast that rebounded to him from the backboards. However, #30 did give up a bad goal on the 4th tally and he allowed a huge rebound up the slot on the third Tampa lamp lighter. Jose Theodore (18 saves on 21 shots), who played the last 40 minutes, made some good saves for most of the second period but the shot from St. Louis was a long, unscreened one he could have stopped but I have to give most of the credit to St. Louis for that laser. The sixth goal, however, is one that Theo definitely needs to prevent. It was another point blast that he just couldn’t handle and there did not appear to be any significant screens. I really thought #60 was going to come in and be the hero tonight but it was not to be once again for the inconsistent guy who was supposed to be the team’s #1 net minder.

“I thought Neuvy kept us in the game and he was really good and he didn’t deserve to get this kind of treatment in front of him. I kept thinking about the Carolina game last year, he got rattled and had his confidence shaken so I wanted him pulled before that occurred,” started the 2007-08 Jack Adams trophy winner on his decision to bring in Theodore after the first period, “That goal at the end of the second period really hurt. If we go in after two tied then we are okay but we had the push and it just wasn’t far enough. When you make that push you have to get over the hump,” said Boudreau describing the momentum killer that was St. Louis game winning goal that made it 5-4.

I could deal with the bad effort to some degree, but what I really did not like was that Lightning thug Steve Downie, who likely learned from his head coach and chief punk Rick Tocchet, kept taking cheap shots at Alexander Ovechkin (2 assists, -1, 6 PIMs) after the Great #8 hit him clean while the non-skilled joke of a hockey player had his head down. Downie responded with two punches to the grill of Ovechkin but somehow they both received two minute minors (I think referees Mark Joannette and Francois St. Laurent were drinking between periods with the guy from CSN who picked the Caps player of the game). To top it all off, Downie then comes out of the box and backhand slashes and spears Ovie. The two then square off to fight, and that is something Downie wanted, but anyone in the Caps organization did not wish to see. Luckily, Matt Bradley, who had just come onto the ice surface on a line change, raced in and dropped the gloves and had a spirited bout with the Bolts agitator. It was actually one of #10’s better all time fights. Shortly thereafter Dave Steckel dropped the gloves with a much more experienced fighter in Zenon Konopka and after a good first punch by #39 he got hammered. That is where the Caps could have used Erskine and I have no clue where Jason Chimera was while all of this was going on down the stretch? I thought he was here to add some toughness? Boudreau addressed the altercation involving Ovechkin as well as the late game festivities.

“No, not at all, and you’ve been around this team long enough that you knew’d Matt Bradley would step in. Last thing we want is Alex fighting,” commented Boudreau to Washington Post beat writer Tarik El-Bashir when he asked the coach if he was surprised that #10 jumped in to prevent the Great #8 from fighting Downie, “They were taking liberties with Alex and we were trying to stand up for him as much as possible,” finished Boudreau on the end of the game fireworks.

Back to the referees. Bradley was given 27 minutes in total penalties at the end but the Caps coach is claiming that was incorrect.

“He got the extra 10 minute misconduct for leaving the bench and we said no, he was already out there on a line change, so [the referees] said that the league can rescind that if that is the case,” added Boudreau on the penalties assessed to the ultimate team guy, Bradley.

In summary, this game was a stinker but luckily the Caps are right back on the ice in Florida on Wednesday night to take on the Panthers at 730pm. Fortunately we get that one on Comcast HD because the Caps play matched the quality of the tv feed on Tuesday night (crappy).