Alexander Ovechkin returned to the line-up tonight for the Washington Capitals and he came back with a flurry notching two goals in a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau has been getting great goaltending lately and Monday was no different as Semyon Varlamov was outstanding once again making several big saves en route to 26 total stops on the evening for his first shutout of the season. #40 is now 12-1-2 in goal. The Caps have now won 12 straight games against the Lightning, wow! This was Washington’s sixth straight win and they now lead the NHL with 44 points at 19-5-6.
Here is the period by period analysis followed by the post game analysis:
End of 1st period: Caps 0 Lightning 0
Well the intensity was down early in this one with the Great #8 back on the ice. Washington had three power plays, and it had been red hot, going 7 for 18 recently, but it went scoreles in period one with Brooks Laich hitting the post on the first PP attempt for the Caps best scoring chance. On the other end, Vincent Lecavalier had some good chances, including a great two on one opportunity that he shot wide on. #4 has had a tough season so far but claims he has been getting scoring opportunities, so look out if he gets it going. Martin St. Louis had a strong period for the Bolts but this low energy period was won by both goaltenders.
End of 2nd period: Caps 3, Lightning 0
The Lightning drew a Washington penalty with Mike Green getting called for a slash at 5:12 but the Caps did a nice job of killing off the infraction despite some late giveaways by Dave Steckel and Chris Clark. Once the Caps got to even strength Alexander Semin and Ovechkin went in on a two on one break and #28 made a beautiful pass to set up Alexander the Great and he one timed it home. For the 22nd time in 30 games this season, the Caps would tally first. Washington then took another slashing call, this time on Semin, and the Caps had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 on a shorthanded rush but Laich, after a great set up from Brendan Morrison, missed a tap in at the left post. St. Louis then appeared to have a breakaway but he took his eye off of the puck and it trickled into the corner. Shortly thereafter Lecavalier almost had another breakaway after a Caps turnover but John Erskine dove and made a great poke check to knock the puck behind the net.
Varlamov was super solid up making some sparkling glove saves on Kurtis Foster on the two Tampa power plays. Washington then got a lucky bounce after Tomas Fleischmann made a nice steal in his own end and carried the puck into the Tampa zone. #14 tried to throw it on net but the puck deflected up in the air off of a Bolts stick and it fell right to Eric Fehr in front and he slammed it home to make it 2-0 at 12:32 of the period. When you go to the net good things usually happen.
Wide open hockey then ensued with both teams trading chances and then Lecavalier tripped Ovechkin at center ice to put the Caps back on the power play. The Lightning were playing with fire giving Washington another chance on the man advantage and when former Cap Jeff Halpern turned the puck over and cried for a penalty, Semin and company went back down the ice 4 on 2 and Ovechkin ended up scoring at the left post to make it 3-0. The Great #8 now has 20 goals in just 22 games (he has missed 8 games – 6 due to injury and 2 to suspension). Shots in that period were 16 for Washington and 14 for the Lightning.
End of 3rd period: Caps 3, Lightning 0
Early in period three the Caps had a two on one break with Ovechkin and Semin and the Great #8, instead of shooting, passed to #28, but he missed the ocean. That would have ended the game right there. Ovie probably should have shot there but he was being unselfish trying to return a favor to his friend Sasha. Steve Downie followed with a nice chance and Varlamov stopped him five hole but Fehr took a hooking infraction. Instead of Tampa taking advantage, the Caps got two shorthanded scoring chances with Semin nearly converting on a fancy curl and drag (Smith made a great save) and then Fleischmann went in from the left wing but Smith denied him.
Varlamov continued to play well and he made a super ten bells save on a two on one down low just over five minutes in. A scary moment for Caps fans then ensued as Mike Green went flying up the ice and David Hale tried to shoulder him and he got #52 in the face on the follow through with his elbow. Green would get up and be okay and then he drew a tripping penalty when Lecavalier took him down. But Washington was tentative on the power play and Ryan Malone almost scored on a hard charge to the goal but Varly stopped him as #12 went crashing in to him. Varly appeared to bang his leg on the post but fortunately he appeared to be okay.
The contest seemed to lose energy and the Caps coasted to an easy win to go 7-0 in the Southeast Division in 2009-10.
Here is the post game analysis:
Varlamov was great and so was Ovechkin tonight as the Russian duo led the way in this one against a Tampa team that was supposed to be improved. The Lightning are better but they were really horrible last year (drafted 2nd overall last summer). I thought Rick Tocchet’s club would play with more energy but they just look listless at times. Lecavalier is definitely in a big time scoring slump and looks like he wants out of there.
Back to Varly, he continues to improve and his glove hand was superb tonight. Looks like the combination of new goalie Coach Arturs Irbe and an equipment change (lighter glove) has really helped him. He also is becoming more and more positionally sound in net and I really only saw one bad rebound tonight but he didn’t over react on that one and ended up making a second save. Still, look for Theodore in net on Wednesday as #60 is hot too and Boudreau has to rotate his goalies in an Olympic year with a compact schedule.
Boy was it fun to have the Great #8 back on the ice tonight! He is pure entertainment. Here is Ovechkin’s stat line: 2 goals, 7 shots on net, 5 missed shots, and 5 hits in 22:02 of ice time. If he stays healthy I believe he will end up leading the league in scoring despite missing 8 contests. Semin, Ovie’s Russian comrade, had 2 assists, 7 shots on net, and 7 missed shots logging 21:33 of ice time.
Shaone Morrisonn returned from injury (c0ncussion) tonight and had a solid 16:05 of ice time. In fact, the entire Caps defensive crew played well and they continued a recent trend of making excellent break out passes and that allows Washington’s deadly transition game to get into high gear. Milan Jurcina was a scratch tonight while Karl Alzner was returned to Hershey so the Caps are pretty loaded on the blue line (and don’t forget 19 year old John Carlson).
Next up for the Caps are the Sabres in Buffalo onWednesday night.