Game One Less than Ideal: Bolts beat Caps 4-2

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.

  • The Capitals were the better team for the majority of the first 40 minutes, but the Lightning did a better job exploiting the Caps’ mistakes. What should have been a swelling third period comeback ended up being a stunning collapse of Washington’s systems. Crestfall.
  • Despite the loss, Washington had more scoring chances, leading Tampa 18-16.
  • But the powerplay. Sheesh. The powerplay. The Caps had 4 PP scoring chances in the first period and none after. The man advantage had trouble entering the zone and generating a single shot at the end there. Yikes.

  • The oft-injured Simon Gagne accrued yet another blow to the head. Following a clean hit from Scott Hannan (who was a bundle of trouble on skates tonight), Gagne lost his balance and bounced his noggin on the Verizon Center sheet.  Gagne declined the stretcher, but with his history of concussions we have reason to be worried about him.
  • If you’re tracking the press coverage, you might’ve seen this coming. The Lightning’s 1-3-1 trap defense obliterated the Caps’ momentum and zone entry. They forced turnovers, they kicked babies, they caused offsides. Boucher 1, Boudreau 0. Grab your sac, sir.
  • John Carlson got hurt at the tail end of the second period. Don’t know why. Too cranky to look it up. Tell you what: you look it up and tell me. He skated one shift in the third.
  • I’m sorry. I am butthurt over this game, and I’m taking it out on you. Not cool, I know. Someone get me a glass of milk.
  • Steve Downie, dammit.  One goal, one assist tonight. Dude has 8 points in his last 4 games, the best stretch of his career. He did have an elbowing penalty, but that’s still below-average douchebaggery for Steve.
  • Dammit. Downie. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

    Tampa blocked 3 shots in 1st, 6 in the 2nd, and 12 in the 3rd. If we went to overtime, they probably would have blocked 24 shots. Neil would like to point out that they blocked only 2 in the scoring-chance erogenous zone, which evidences the lack of the our team’s net crashiness tonight.
  • Nick Backstrom continues his ice-cold streak with three scoring chances and nothing to show for it. And man was he close on a couple tonight. When he breaks through, it’ll be a sight to behold. Alex will be pissed if someone else gets an Ovechtrick first.

Jeremy Roenick suit of the night

Alright, this one didn’t turn out the way we wanted. The Capitals’ yearlong rest between games yielded exactly squat (note: read this in John C. McGinley voice for intended effect). Grumpypants have been affixed to the team’s hips, and they shall not be removed until Sunday evening at the earliest.

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.

  • AshleyDC

    A friend and I have dubbed the BB blotchy, “Going Full Grimace”, as in the purple friend to one Ronald McDonald. The last 25 minutes of the game was a study in Grimace phasing.

    Game was a sad reminder of the crappy times in the reg season when they couldn’t put together a complete game. That ain’t gonna cut it in playoffs.

  • Tim

    Any comment I’d leave would probably get me banned.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian

    I *think* Carlson got hurt on Nate Thompson’s shorthanded breakaway attempt. But of course there’s no video of the play.

  • Krissy

    Oh My God. “Jeremy Roenick Suit of the Night.” with a Goomba. I laughed, hard.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja

    Wait … there was a power play there? In that game? I tried finding one. I turned over the benches, and looked behind the Zamboni … but I could not find a decent power play in that game. They are thinking too hard instead letting their talent and instinct take over. It’s the shots they don’t have time to think about that actually get through. But this dinking around tap, tap, tap, tap (what should I do, where should I pass … oh shit … someone else took my puck) … has got to stop.

    Think a little, skate more …

  • Owen

    The games seemed to go well from what I heard, until I turned it on (when I turned it on, it was 2-1 Caps). Then I saw passes to no one, offsides galore, etc.

  • Mike

    Is anyone else hungry? Im sure the Caps players are after leaving that humungous pile of crap on the ice earlier toady. Theyve got to be ready for some S’getti now. Mmmm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/caitlin.radek Caitlin

    *urge to drink, curse, & punch things rising*

  • Natasha

    The Caps came out rusty, quickly let the first one, but grabbed their sacks later in the first. I thought they played well in the second as well until that damned deflection. Well, shit happens.

    Peter, did I tell you that your recaps (and writing abilities in general) make me swallow losses much easier. Well done, sir.

  • Dave

    slow rusty start, fairly quick rebound, get frustrated, start sucking and forcing plays…the end

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian

    Post Game Quotes via Caps PR Rep Kelly Murray

    Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau on playing differently when down in the game…
    “[The Lightning] make it frustrating. They just hang back. You’re trying to push and they are very good at it. That’s why when they get a lead – and they got a lead against Pittsburgh – they hold onto it.”

    Capitals Marcus Johansson on the momentum shift for Tampa Bay on the power play…
    “They got a lucky goal. It went off one of our guys and into the net. That got them back in the game.”

    Capitals Jeff Schultz on the play of the Capitals…
    “We just got away from our game plan. They turned it up a notch. Two quick goals put us back on our heels and we couldn’t catch up from there.”

    Capitals Eric Fehr on if Tampa Bay surprised the Capitals with their play…
    “That’s exactly how we expected them to play and we had a really good game plan and we had it going for a while, and we kind of gave up on it and things didn’t go well after that.”

    Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin on tonight’s game…
    “I think we play very well, the last 10 minutes of the first period and the first 10 minutes of the second period. When we get the lead, we didn’t play our game, I think we play too cute and we took lots of penalties and that cost us. It’s over and we have to prepare for next game.”

    Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher on shutting down the Capitals power play…
    “There’s always the luck element in there. Our players put a lot of work into the details. They really do. They spend a lot of time watching video by themselves or in little groups on top of what we made them watch. They figured out a lot of the small details that make you successful. You look at their power play, they still had a lot of time of possession in our zone.”

    Tampa Bay Vincent Lecavalier on tonight’s game…
    “It was great game, [the Capitals] really pushed us hard. They came out hard and we played pretty well defensively there in the third period to minimize their chances. Overall, obviously we’re happy to come out the way we did. It was a hard fought game for both teams.”

    Tampa Bay Steve Stamkos on losing Simon Gagne…
    “You shorten up the shifts and be aware especially when we had that long change for our [defense]. We have to manage the puck and make sure we get into [the Capitals] zone and apply some pressure and give our [defense] a chance to change. ”

    Tampa Bay Steve Downie on tonight’s game and goaltender Dwayne Roloson’s role…
    “[The Capitals] still had their chances, they hit a couple posts. Tonight was anyone’s game, we just got the bounce. I thought they should have buried us but [Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson] kept us alive.”

  • Mike

    (Swallows spaghetti noodles) In reality I didn’t see the caps team that outworked and grinded the other team down like the Rangers series. Yes this is a different team, but it sure looked like they forgot or went away from the game plan. I think they overused the top lines and went away from line 3 & 4. The 3rd and 4th line always seems to bring the grinder mentality back to the game by doing the basics the 1st & 2nd line gets away from occasionally. Forcing point shots wont help the offense, nor will running right into the Lightnings flat diamond blue line defense for offsides. You cant overlook the loss of Carlson. The D’men looked off all night against Tampa’s 2nd line.

  • BobbyG

    Like Tim, I have to be very careful about what I post so I don’t get banned. :( And like Sonja, I kept looking for a Caps power play that wasn’t there. What happened? Blame it on rust from too much time off because IMO it surely played a role in the outcome. I also blame the Caps falling back into the bad habits trap. They pressed too hard and took too many low percentage shots. They failed to put more sustained pressure on Roloson. Fortunately there won’t be too much time between this ugly game and game 2, just time enough for the Caps to re-group and re-focus to get their mojo back and tie this series 1-1.

  • 28ISGREAT

    By all objective measures our boys should have won this game … assuming of course an objective measure doesn’t consider the 3rd period. Frankly, I have no clue what team I was watching that 3rd period. (I do actually, but I don’t want to utter those words…)

    In the meantime, Nick Backstrom needs to get someone to suck the venom out of whatever snakebite he’s suffered. He’s actually becoming a liability at this point – his drawing a nice O-zone penalty aside – the guy is in serious need of some goat slaughtering.

    I have faith Game 2 will re-establish some equilibrium…until then, the yin to my yang is Yuengling…and lots of it.

  • http://www.toooast.com mattymatty2000

    The Caps outplayed the Lightning for the majority of the game. TB’s first goal should have been disallowed after whomever scored (can’t remember) cross-checked Mike Green in the back into the goal then picked up the loose puck and fired it home. Should have been a Caps PP and the play should’ve ended soon as the puck touched TB dude’s stick. Their second goal was about as lucky as they come. Not a damn thing you can do about that.

    I’ll say it again, the Caps out played the Lightning, out-hit them and out shot them. The Caps are the better team. Sure this one sucks, but the Caps will come out hard on Sunday. Now back to breaking furniture in my living room.

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  • Mike

    This game just about made me through my remote through my wall. I thought the caps had ‘figured out’ the 1-3-1 system, obviously not. Bruce, and Arnott better have some fire and lightning spewing out of them tomorrow, I don’t want any of that crap with Boston/Montreal, losing the home ice games. Hopefully the caps can use the positives of this game and come out swinging in Game 2.

    As much as this game left me frustrated, angry, and probably slightly depressed, there’s still hope (for me at least). Just gotta’ roll with the punches.

  • BrandanPfeifer

    Nice Super Mario Brothers reference witht the suit of the night. HA classic

    Im not too worried, Lightning are beasts on the PK and have a lot of weapons, I thought we handled them for most of the game… Limit the mistakes and this game and the games to come go the other way

  • Adam antisocial

    Need to bring @AndrewGordon10 up. And Wrecker.
    Add some energy to the team. Or if that doesn’t work
    just beat on them till they can’t remember which goal
    To shoot at.

  • Greg

    That was a damn good 35 minutes of hockey (after the first 5. they looked like rubber chickens out there for the first 5). But man oh man, did that third period erase any memories of that. If not for the Hannan own goal, this game is at worst 2 – 2 at the end of regulation. That’s what killed them, they were controlling the game to perfection to that point (and it could have been a 5 – 1 lead at certain points), but after that and the Stamkos PP goal (which in my scenario, makes it a tie game), Tampa decided to go on prison lockdown and the Caps looked like a bunch of fish out of water. If the game is still tied, they don’t bite down like that and the Caps have a chance to put one through. That being said, on the PP, the Caps gotta SHOOT. Too much fancy passing on the perimeter. Fight for some position, dammit! Get in Roloson’s face. I cannot believe that TBL’s box is that impenetrable.

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  • http://Twitter.com/capsrock Dave C.

    Huge letdown and I’m depressed as hell but I’m actually not concerned about the series. We had 6 days off. We hadn’t played crappy in a while like that. It happens to all teams, and last night it was our turn. That said, it still hurts, stings, and is depressing. We got this Sunday. No doubt. We run this town!!!

  • Greg

    Watching the replay of their missed chances is the equivalent to being a masochist. Semin is so damn close to that goal that it just makes me wonder how much wrong the Caps must have done to the hockey gods to deserve that one. The bounces on the chance where Rolo gloves the puck away from Arnott and when Nicky is trying to put it home in the EN and it hits the D’s stick is brutal.

    Backstrom should have scored on his chance with 9:42 too. Very disappointing.

  • Greg

    One final p.s. – Boucher’s whole “David v. Goliath” schtick is pretty annoying. I hope the Caps prove him right, but it’s so transparent that it’s pretty pathetic.

  • Ross

    The Caps are just wayyyy too sensitive when they take bad bounces and questionable penalties – They look like third-graders who collectively just got their lunch money taken by a girl at recess. Where’s the on-ice leadership?? We’re sure going to need gobs of it if we’re going to go on from here.

  • Domini

    Am I the only one who likes to call Downie “Snuggles”?

  • J.P.

    Sigh…need to get Ovi off the damn point on the pp. Would also be nice if they got some faces in front of Roloson on the pp, as well. Those dumbass penalties were brutal, especially Chimera’s.
    Shake it off and smarten up boys, Sunday will be a time for redemption.

  • @CapFans1426

    IMO, the game took the fatal turn when Ovie started to try and do everything himself. But all told after 6 days off they didn’t look horrible. The penalties in the second cost us by not allowing the team to keep the rhythm.

    We shall see Sunday evening how well they rebound. . .

    Go Caps!

  • bob

    Does anyone else think Arnott is getting too much ice time, especially on the powerplay? He’s ok, but he doesn’t have a lot of speed, which is what you need to play against TBY. I thought he looked brutal out there last night. The talk in the dressing room is fine, but you need to do it on the ice too–otherwise you’re just the wizard of oz.

    Fehr looked pretty good last night, and they seemed better in the faceoff dot (looking for positives).

    I’ll add my name to the list of people who think that ovie is completely misused on the point on the powerplay. He’d be much more effective coming off the half wall or down low where he can use his strength and power.

    If they can get wideman, green, and carlson all on the ice in this series, ovie has no business on the point. He doesn’t have the experience making plays there the way a defenseman does, which is key given TBY’s aggressive penalty kill. Of course those 3 puck moving d are also a great counter to the 1-3-1.

  • http://Yahoo Pens Fan

    Hey Caps Fans. Your loving eulogy to the Pens makes me laugh. Nice shutout last night… perhaps the Lightning is damn good team that beat us and will beat your sorry asses too. Russian Machine F#$%^ed up.

  • Colin

    I thought they played pretty well the first half of the game, made some mistakes and gave up a couple lucky goals. Then…, it looked liked they panicked just like last year. Does BB not trust ANYONE else to play the PP besides Ovi? He looked totally gassed out there a few times and STILL stayed on the ice. And it’s not like it was working. The Caps do better than almost anyone when they consistently roll four lines because of our depth, take shorter shifts and wear down the opponent. It looks like BB panicked and pressed the PLAY ONLY TWO LINES button.

  • Shawb Bane

    Hey Russian Machine, Let me tell you if Stamkos, St. Louis, and Lecaviller do not soundly beat you in five games. You will have your heads handed to you by Philly. Whom have the Capitals beat? how many cups have they won? It will be another year of ” What happened to the great Ovechkin. The Pens were beaten in January when Malkin went down. With Geno and Jordan Staal I think not only the beat Tampa bay, They go on to beat the Caps again. Are not the Caps the Pens Bitches? History says so. History will repeat itself in 2012. How is that Mike Shanahan Redskins thing going? The only team that Washington has better than a Pittsburgh team are The Nationals, just face it anyone can beat the Pirates, and the Wizards, Pittsburgh has no NBA team. The last time that any team from DC won something was the Redskins in the 80′s. Since then 2 more Lombardi Trophies, three Stanley Cups.

  • Dark Stranger

    @Greg (#24),

    Greg, are you a Caps supporter or a Tampa supporter? Agree that the David vs Goliath schtick is annoying. If you’re a Caps supporter, I don’t think you’d want the Caps in the Goliath role too badly, given that David was the winner in that one.

  • Sam

    Oh god, the eulogy brought the always civil and highly intelligent Pens fans. I’m scared because they actually watch hockey. I just think Ovi is a hottie.

  • Greg

    Dark Stranger: I didn’t mean I hope he’s right in regards to that particular fable, but I mean more in the way of him saying “Caps are so much better than us.” I hope he’s right about that. I am in no way a Tampa supporter. I can’t stand that franchise. Going to a game earlier this year at St. Pete Times Forum where the Caps won, and the Lightning were still leading the division, the TBL fans were chanting “second place.” Which brings me to my next point:

    Hey, Pens fans… no one cares about your past successes. And bringing the Steelers into this is pretty pointless too. The only thing more pathetic than “we have won in the past and you haven’t” is when the team saying it is already ELIMINATED in this year’s playoffs. Enjoy the links, d-bags.

    Guess what, if the Caps win the Cup this year, and that’s a BIG if, they will have as many cups as the Penguins have had in the last almost 20 years. Anything before that is ancient history, and completely irrelevant to the current status of the NHL, especially in the salary cap era.

  • Greg

    Also, at the guy called “Pens Fans”, what shutout are you talking about? Pretty sure it was a 3-2, the EN notwithstanding.

  • Greg

    I should start a blog called “angry Caps fan”. Lol.

  • J.P.

    Ah, the always predictable Pittsburgh fanbase: when presented with circumstances unfavorable to their point of view, the Pittsburgh fan will always, always use the ghost of distantly remembered championships from the past to justify obnoxious behavior in the present. Professionals sometimes label this the “Big Turd In The Little Toilet Syndrome.” On that note, yinz can put your faded chumpionship banners in the terlet with the rest of the bandwagoneering douches that make up the bulk of yer yammering fanbase and flush yerselves into that sewage infested skankwater yinz have the temerity to call a river. Stay classy ya scum encrusted turdlets, stay classy.