Alex Semin rings iron. (Awesome photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Welp. That just happened.
The Washington Capitals invited the Tampa Bay Lightning for a night of pucks and fun in Chinatown. Starting off the conference semi-finals, the well rested Caps were expected to bulldoze Tampa Bay’s exhausted trap defense and open up some cracks in the Roloson wall. Did not happen.
On the board first was Sean Bergenheim, rewarded for crowding Michal Neuvirth’s crease. Marco Sturm returned fire by forcing a turnover that Alex Semin mightily wristed past Dwayne Roloson’s defenses. Jason Chimera fought below the goal line to set up Eric Fehr for the go-ahead, but that’s when the wheels came off. After a soft turnover, Steve Downie had a little help in his tying goal thanks to Scott Hannan’s stick. On a late second period powerplay, Steven Stamkos, given way too much space in the paint by John Erskine, had enough time to force one past Neuvy. And with the net cleared out, Dominic Moore sacrificed his body to settle the matter. Bolts beat Caps 4-2. Dammit.
This was a clear tactical victory for Guy Boucher’s flummoxing system. Bruce Boudreau, nervous– rubbing his face, and getting all splotchy in the third, was clear proof of that.
But we’re not beyond hope.
The second period Capitals were breaking through the Tampa wall and pressuring Roloson with tenacity. They were creative, physical, and attuned to one another as if they’d just finished a work retreat packed with trustfalls. If the Caps can summon that vibe on Sunday and the three games after it, this will be the exciting and winnalicious series we all deserve.
Don’t lose hope. These kinds of games have to happen in the playoffs. We’ll see you Sunday.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg and Ian Oland.
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