Photo by Brian Blanco
Don’t panic. The Washington Capitals lost their opening game of the 2013 season on Saturday night, conceding three power play goals en route to a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a new coach, a new system, and a lockout hanging over their heads, the Caps were terrible in their own zone and suffered the consequences of such sloppy play. Joel Ward scored twice and Wojtek Wolski was on the mark for DC while Braden Holtby mde 26 saves in net. With 47 games left and two days of practice before their next game, the Caps have some time to get things sorted out, but must get the ship back on track soon or they will be put into a pressure cooker.
Given two early power plays in the first five minutes of the period, the Capitals were unable to capitalize despite some good pressure during both two-minute advantages. Washington paid for their transgression quickly, as Eric Brewer opened the scoring on Tampa’s first shot at the 6:24 mark. The Caps tied the game up soon after during another power play as Joel Ward banged home a Tom Poti rebound, but Vincent Lecavalier gave the Lightning the lead right back less than a minute later. After some back and forth with chances for both squads, Tampa was given their first power play at 14:01. They, too, failed to convert while a man to the good, and the period closed with Tampa holding a 2-1 lead.
Ward scored 1:59 in to the second period for his second goal of the night, knocking one past Lindback off a net crash during a delayed penalty call. But Washington would concede their momentum right back when Wojtek Wolski was shafted with a holding call in the neutral zone. They paid for it quickly, as Martin St. Louis chipped a puck through Holtby from just in front near the five-minute mark. Washington killed off another Lightning power play soon after the goal, and Tampa began to dominate play to such an extent that Oates was forced to burn his timeout following an icing call. Things didn’t get any better as the Caps were sent right back to the penalty kill after a Mike Ribeiro high-stick, though again the penalty kill held firm. During a 4-on-4 period late in the frame, Wojtek Wolski got off the mark for his new club, banging home a rebound in front to equalize. The period closed all knotted at 3.
Tampa came out flying in the third, pressing Holtby for the go-ahead tally; the goaltender was forced to make a ten-bell save on Steven Stamkos in front before Washington took another penalty. Nicklas Backstrom was given the gate for a penalty with 56 seconds left on the first minor, and St. Louis converted on the two-man advantage to give the home side a 4-3 lead. Washington earned a power play of their own with just south of 13 minutes left in regulation, but could not garner any pressure and failed to convert. Tampa iced the result with a goal from Cory Conacher with just over six minutes to go before getting another power play marker Eric Brewer.
Mike Ribeiro is some kinda nasty. The Caps’ new center was at his slithery best Saturday night, making plays all over the ice sheet and creating offense with his passing. He was already a great move with what the Caps gave up to get him, but if he can get cooking, he will be an integral part of whatever this team can accomplish.
Braden Holtby looked a little uneasy during this game. He made some big saves, as he always does, but also overplayed the puck on Tampa’s second goal, which helped the Bolts tally. And, he let in six goals. I’ve said all summer that he would regress; I’m not calling out the dogs based on one game, but I will reiterate: he’s not going to stop 34 of 35 every night, either. It would not surprise me if Michal Neurvirth got the call in the Caps’ next game.
The defense as a whole was atrocious in this game. Only Mike Green and John Carlson were above average or even near it, the rest of the defenders were decidedly poor. With Jack Hillen going down after a crunching hit from Vinny Lecavalier that may bring out the Shanahammer, the Caps need will to get to get their defense sorted out in a hurry if they want to make any sort of noise. This is the primary area of concern, and with improved defensive zone play will come fewer penaltues and a better penalty kill.
Washington will practice at Kettler tomorrow. Next game is the home opener, against the Jets on Tuesday night.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.