Lightning Steal Game 1 on the Road from the Caps and Lead Series 1-0

The Washington Capitals commenced their 2011 Round Two appearance with a 4-2 loss against their opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

(Tom Turk/THW)

The game started in a rather shaky manner for Washington, as the Lightning were quickly gaining offensive opportunities. The Bolts got their first goal about two minutes into the first period. Even after the goal, Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth was rolling around in the crease, as his defense batted away multiple shots and loose pucks.

Entering into the second period tied 1-1, just under two minutes in, Caps forward Eric Fehr fed off of the late-first period momentum to finally really put the Caps ahead 2-1. Tampa Bay decided then it was time to get physical. The tables turned after the next few power plays went to the Lightning, where they were able to land a few shots on Neuvirth. The extended time in Washington’s zone resulted in a defensive lapse and Caps defender Scott Hannan was the victim of an own goal as Tampa’s Steve Downie’s shot deflected off of Hannan’s stick into the net. A roughing penalty committed by Jason Chimera in the offensive zone led to another Lightning power play where Tampa Bay cashed in and regained the lead, 3-2.

By the time the third period rolled around, the Capitals had resettled themselves and got back to dominating the offensive play, finally drawing power plays and getting shots on net again. However, turnovers and constant offside whistles kept the Caps from getting more quality shots on net until it was too late.

Stamkos, in a faceoff (Tom Turk/THW).

Even though the first period started less-than-desirable for Washington, they eventually got going on one of the keys to winning, which was to start early and quickly outshoot and outchance the Lightining. By the end of the first, the Caps had ten scoring opportunities to the Lightning’s five chances, which two of those opportunities came as a result of Caps’ turnovers toward the end of the period (data according to Neil Greenberg of Russian Machine Never Breaks).

The Caps took advantage of that momentum and scored in early in the second period and it seemed as though all the keys they needed to win were all there. However, despite winning a majority of the faceoffs and keeping the  momentum, the Capitals lost track of their game plan and began playing reckless hockey, committing far too many turnovers and penalties, along with not getting enough of their own power plays. This allowed Tampa to get back in the game and gain ground on scoring chances and shots while Washington hardly had any in the second period.

Nonetheless, while it is easy to be critical of the Capitals who looked so determined and complete in the last round, it is only Game 1. In my eyes, it was a feeling-each-other-out type of game. “How so,” you ask? Well, despite having played each other six times in the regular season, the Caps and Bolts, both coming off drastically different playoff series, sort of testing the waters. The Caps, who just had five days of rest,  looked rusty, and the Lightning, who had one day off after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games, were running on adrenaline — at times, Tampa Bay’s adrenaline seemed to get the best of them. So it certainly is not reason for true concern that the Capitals dropped the first game at home to the Lightning, especially since the Southeast Division rivals have not seen each other almost two months ago on March 7.

Both teams made their mistakes and had their inconsistencies, so next game will be telling of the way the series will go from here on out. Washington should be better conditioned by then and will need to cut down on penalties, as well as putting continuous pressure on Roloson so that he does not get into that “zone” BruceBoudreau talked about before.

Game 2 will be Sunday, May 1 at 7 p.m. and will be showing on VERSUS and CBC.

Notes: Lightning Simon Gagne left the game about halfway through the first period with an injury sustained from an awkward fall after he was hit by Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan. Gagne was helped off the ice and went straight to the locker room; he did not return.