It doesn’t matter how much you carry the play or dominate a hockey game if you continue to make mistakes that end up with the puck going into the back of your own net. Right now, that is exactly what is happening to the Washington Capitals. A dumb penalty that led to a power play goal, a puck that went in off of the skate of one of their own defenders, and then a terrible line change doomed the Caps in game two. Vinny Lecavalier’s doorstep tally 6:19 into the overtime period gave the Bolts a 3-2 victory and a 2-0 series lead over the Capitals. Game three is set for Tuesday night at 6:30 pm in Tampa (early start due to TV).
“It’s a tough loss, but give them credit. They capitalized on their opportunities and on our mistakes. Down 2-0, but we’ve been in this position before and we’ve come back…we’re going to regroup and come back on Tuesday,” said Caps forward Brooks Laich (1 goal, 1 assist), who was Washington’s best player in this tilt.
Here are the rest of the highlights, quotes, and analysis from another contest that the Caps gave away to Tampa:
- In their round one victory over the New York Rangers, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau talked about his best players being his best players. That has not been the case at all in round two while Tampa Coach Guy Boucher’s top guns, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier, are getting it done for their bench boss. Lecavalier had two tallies and was the best forward on the ice while Tampa d-man Eric Brewer was outstanding on the back end for the Lightning. As for the Caps, despite Alexander Ovechkin’s huge goal to tie the game late in regulation, he had a very sub par game. His lazy high sticking penalty led to Tampa’s first goal and his overtime giveaway resutled in a two on on break for Tampa that fortunately saw Steve Downie shoot high on. Nicklas Backstrom was better tonight and he set up the first goal but he still isn’t clicking offensively. Mike Green wasn’t very good either. He was tentative on the power play, the second Bolts goal (St. Louis) went in off of his skate in front of the net, and he over committed to Teddy Purcell on the winning goal, which allowed #16 to slide a pass to an all alone Lecavalier in front of the net. Simply put, the Lightning are winning this series because their top guys are making plays while Washington’s are not making good ones.
- Boucher will attribute some of his team’s series lead to luck, but the bottom line is you make your own luck with hard work. The Bolts are working hard to get to the front of the net and as a result they’ve scored more goals than the Caps. Their goaltender has been superb but Brewer and the rest of the big Tampa defense have prevented the Capitals from getting rebound goals. Washington is putting lots of shots on Roloson but he is seeing the large majority of them and thus they aren’t leading to many second chances, something Oveckhin says his team needs to do better with going forward by stating afterwards that the Caps need to “get more traffic” in front of the Tampa netminder.
- Washington went 0 for 6 on the power play in game two while Tampa was 1 for 5. It was the second straight game in which the Bolts won the special teams battle and that is one of the main reasons for the difference in the series right now. The Caps had lots of offensive zone possession time but not a lot of quality shots. The ones they did manage to get were gobbled up by the 41 year old Tampa goalie.
“The most important penalty killer is your goaltender, so that’s part of it. We also got lucky – that’s another part of it … Goaltender and luck had a lot to do with it today.” said Boucher on his team’s PK success.
- Before game two, I talked about Washington needing to get a lead to take Tampa out of their 1-3-1 scheme, which they are extremely comfortable playing. The Caps never led in this contest and despite a second period in which the Capitals were all over the Bolts, it was Boucher’s crew that came out and carried the play in period three. A major advantage of the Lightning’s scheme is it doesn’t require a lot of skating, which helps his team save energy, and they used that in the third period to nearly win the game in regulation. Boucher says that his system has advantages and disadvantages but the saving energy aspect is one that definitely helps. However, he did say that the 1-3-1 was “being exploited” by the Caps. Boudreau has given his team techniques to defeat the scheme but his club is not finishing its chances, something they must do going forward.
- So the Caps once again have their backs against the wall as they head into a make or break game three. They cannot afford to commit the silly mental and physical mistakes they’ve made so far in this series. They must work harder and smarter. Forwards must pay the price and get to the front of the cage to distract Roloson. They can’t take any more careless penalties. There is no margin for error but a 2-0 series lead is not as full proof as we’ve seen in the past. Boston rallied this year after losing its first two games at home against Montreal to prevail in seven games and the Caps did the same thing against the Rangers in 2009. Philadelphia also came back from a 3-0 hole to knock off the Bruins in 2010. I will also point out that Michal Neuvirth, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner were all on a 2010 Calder Cup winning team last June that lost games one and two at home before rallying with four straight victories. So it can definitely be done, but the leadership of this Washington club will have to step up and get everyone focused, otherwise the golf course will await much sooner than expected.
“It’s playoff hockey and [Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne] Roloson played real well and the team played pretty well in front of him. We’ve got to hand it to their goaltending tonight. He played extremely well…It’s a long series. We’re not out of it yet. We’ve got to stay positive and keep moving forward,” said forward Jason Arnott, who helped set up Ovechkin’s late game tying tally, but only played 15:04 overall.
Notes: Mike Knuble returned to the lineup and played 18:12. It was his first game since the third tilt against the Rangers…Matt Hendricks was scratched to make room for #22. One has to think #26 gets back in on Tuesday and that perhaps Marco Sturm gets scratched since Boudreau needs guys who will fight to the front of the net and distract Roloson…Carlson and Scott Hannan were the d-pair that made the bad line change but the forwards didn’t get out quickly enough either to cut off the long stretch pass that resulted in the winning goal.