NHL

Rusty Caps can't handle Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lighting celebrate after winning Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals
The Tampa Bay Lighting celebrate their Game 1 win over the Capitals.
Special to FOX Sports Inside Hockey, Ben Eisenberg
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If you thought winning their first-round series in five games would help the Washington Capitals, or that going to a Game 7 would hurt the Tampa Bay Lightning, think again.


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Friday night, the Lightning looked like the more finely-oiled machine while the Caps simply looked rusty as the visitors earned at least a split on the road when Tampa Bay took a 3-2 Game 1 win in Washington.

The Lightning played their game to a T. They took their opening-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins by winning the special-teams battle and getting lucky in 5-on-5 play, and that’s exactly what happened in Game 1 in Washington.

Tampa Bay went 1-for-4 on the power play with Steven Stamkos notching the game-winning goal with the man advantage. The Caps went 0-for-5 on their power-play opportunities with just five shots on goal.

Strangely enough, Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson didn’t even have to be great. In fact, for most of the first two periods he looked shaky and was giving up juicy rebounds. At some point in the series he’ll likely have to come up large, but that wasn’t the case Friday night.

Puck pics

The puck dropped on two more second-round series Friday night. Take a look at the best shots of the night.

The Caps appeared to be in control when they took a 2-1 lead in the second period and could have been up by more had they converted some of their chances. Then at 16:17 of the period Lightning forward Steve Downie sent a pass into the slot which Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan deflected past goalie Michal Neuvirth into his own net to tie the game. Stamkos then put the Lightning ahead for good with 32 seconds remaining in the period.

After that it was 1-3-1 neutral-zone trap time, and the Lightning suffocated the life out of the game. The Caps registered five shots on goal in the third. That also included two power-play opportunities, which resulted in practically no offense for the home team.

Alex Ovechkin was effectively shut down, registering just two shots on goal. His cut-to-the-middle move was completely mapped out the entire night and he once again failed to adjust. Meanwhile, linemate Nicklas Backstrom continues to look like he’s playing through an injury after going pointless and missing a golden scoring chance late in the third.

There were also injuries to both teams which could have ramifications later on. Capitals top-pairing D John Carlson played less than a minute in the third. If injured D Dennis Wideman isn’t ready for Game 2 that could prove to be a massive blow to them. The Lightning lost F Simon Gagne when he landed hard on his head and also were without D Pavel Kubina for the entire third period.

One can’t help but feel that the Caps did as much to lose this game as the Lightning did to win it. They just didn’t look crisp and lacked the attention to detail that allowed them to close the Rangers out in five games. In summary, it looked more like the team that struggled to play .500 hockey pre-trade deadline than the team that tore through the league over the last six weeks.

Lightning head coach Guy Boucher had his team better prepared Friday night than his counterpart. The ball is now in Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau’s court, and he had better hold serve in Game 2 or else his team will find itself in a deep hole.
 

Tagged: Lightning, Capitals

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