Monday, May 2, 2011

Lightning Strikes Down Caps in Game Two

After a lackluster performance resulting in a Game One loss (despite the fact that Tampa Bay suffered the loss of Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina during the course of the game), the Capitals got a chance to even the series on home ice last night.

The offense was bolstered by the return of Mike Knuble to the lineup and fans hoped to see the net-crashing action that was amiss Friday night. Apparently John Carlson was questionable after getting dinged up in Game One, but the defensive dynamo was ready and raring to go. The Caps came out with much more energy than we saw in Game One but the floundering power play continued to plague them. The first period alone saw three consecutive power plays for the home team, of which they converted zero. Despite outshooting the Bolts 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes, the Caps could not permeate the crease of grizzly old timer Dwayne Roloson. Roly the goalie, in his elderly state, proves to be as nimble as kids half his age and kept the Caps off the board in the first. It was a penalty-filled affair, including several missed calls. Martin St. Louis, who’s already lost three pearly whites thus far these playoffs, was again hit right in the choppers. The speedy right-winger helped get his team on the board first at 19:01, with a sweet pass to captain Vinny Lecavalier, whose slap shot earned the Bolts a power play goal.

End of first period: Lightning 1 – Capitals 0

The Caps had a few prime opportunities in the second period, including shot that went wide, attempted by Marco Sturm as he took advantage on a breakaway. His mates continued to go hard to the net though and their efforts paid off at 14:52. St. Louis failed to clear the puck and John Erskine redirected it to a waiting Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom, who has yet to score a goal of his own these playoffs, got the puck to Brooks Laich who beat a solid Roloson to tie the game. The Caps continued to pour the pressure on Roloson, directing 11 shots his way as Neuvirth only faced three from the Bolts.

End of second period: Capitals 1 – Lightning 1

The third period saw another swing in the Bolts’ favor at the 7:35 mark as St. Louis flipped the puck across the net, and Mike Green was in the right place at the wrong time. As Green tried to ensure nothing went into the Caps' net, St. Louis's shot deflected off of Green's skate to give Tampa Bay the lead.

At 8:32, Green found himself again at the center of attention as he went to hit Steven Stamkos and raised his elbow. The nasty impact resulted in a roughing call against Green. Meanwhile, Stamkos ans crew had the better chances in the third period, outshooting the Caps 11 to 5.

Gabby made the decision to pull Neuvirth with 1:43 left in the final frame and Alex Ovechkin took a feed from Jason Arnott and crashed the net, scoring to tie the game with 1:07 left on the clock.

The crowd unleashed the fury once again as this one was headed into a nail-biting OT.

As sloppy as the Caps were at many points during this contest, it was the sloppiness of a poorly timed line change that proved to be their undoing. While Caps players were scrambling for the change, Vinny Lecavalier went top shelf off a wide pass from Teddy Purcell to give the Bolts the win and their fifth road victory in a row (as Jeff Schultz totally missed his coverage doing his best scarecrow imitation).

Final Score: Lightning 3 - Capitals 2

Now the Caps are down 2 games in the series and have lots of making up to do - starting Tuesday night in balmy Florida.

Here are some other takes on the loss from Caps News Network, Japers Rink, CBC and Capitals Insider.

As disappointing as this loss was, the mood in the nation’s capital changed from frustration to jubilation as shortly after the game, the news of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. forces was announced. On Frozen Blog has some commentary on the contrast, while RMNB has photos of Caps fans joining the celebration in front of the White House.

This news certainly brings the playoffs (and really, sports in general) into perspective as in light of this historic event, we remember those who’ve lost their lives – both military and civilians- as a result of 9/11 and other terrorist acts across the world.

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