The Washington Capitals played a huge game with playoff intensity against a division rival tonight. With tensions running high, both sides played stifling defense played very physically. The Caps came into tonight with a chance to build a 3-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Southeast Division. By winning in the shootout, the Caps now hold a 2-point lead in the race for home-ice in the playoffs.
Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson was merely good most of the game, as he wasn't tested much. He was excellent late in the game and in overtime when the Caps finally unleashed their fusillade. It was late in the game when he made acrobatic saves on the Caps top forwards that Roli showed why he's still around at age 41, but he wasn't even the best goalie on the ice tonight.
A late goal by Alexander Semin forced overtime and Alexander Ovechkin sealed the win in the shootout, but the real story of the game was 21-year old rookie netminder Braden Holtby. On the first shift of the game, Nate Thompson fired a shot that knocked Michal Neuvirth's mask off. A visibly shaken Neuvy gave way to Holtby at the end of the first period down 1-0 and Holtby shut the door.
For more on the game from the Lightning perspective, check out Raw Charge.
The Good: Braden Holtby was marvelous in net tonight. In 45 minutes of action, Holtby stopped all 21 shots he faced, plus all 3 shootout attempts. Holtby didn't have it easy, either, after coming off the bench into a shooting gallery that included superstar forwards Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier. Holtby kept the Caps in the game when the offense wasn't clicking, including several 10-bell stops on shots he had no business stopping. The Caps' future in the crease is very bright.
-Dennis Wideman recorded his first point as a Capital when he assisted on Semin's goal.
-Marcus Johansson's passing ability was on full display. He had a beautiful feed to Mike Knuble that predictably bounced on the warm Tampa ice and forced a miss.
The Bad: The Caps gave the Lightning 4 powerplays in the first 25 minutes of the game, and it was almost the difference. The Lightning scored their lone goal on the powerplay and really stifled the Caps' offense early on. The worst part is that none of the penalties were really necessary, as the Caps committed a neutral zone slash, a puck over the glass on the powerplay, and too many men on the ice. The Caps need to start drawing more powerplays than they allow.
-The Caps powerplay. It looked good on that last attempt in overtime, but mostly by comparison. The Caps looked completely inept on two powerplay chances earlier in the game. If the Caps want to stop playing 1-goal games or overtime games, learning how to score on the powerplay would go a long way.
The Ugly: The shot Neuvirth took of his mask was pretty ugly. Neuvy's mask came off on the shot and he took a good 30 seconds to rearrange his scrambled neurons after the whistle blew. As bad as that was, it's nothing compared to the worry about Nicklas Backstrom. Backis left the game near the end of the second period shaking his hand. Already suffering from a broken thumb, Backstrom can't afford any more injuries, and he is the one player the Caps truly can't replace.
-The Jason Arnott miss. Look at it again, though, it looks like Roloson got just enough of Arnott's backhander to get it to miss wide.
-Jason Chimera's play. Ugly can be a good thing and a bad thing for him, and it's good to remember why he's in the NHL. Hint: it's not his hands.