Through two periods last night, the Caps were sleepwalking through another game against a vastly inferior opponent - tied at two, nineteen shots for and five minor penalties committed. But a second consecutive strong third period in the Sunshine State earned the Caps another two points in the standings and a 15-point lead in the Southeast Division.
The story of the night, however, is still unclear - Alex Ovechkin's 50th goal was the early headline, then it was his celebration thereof, but Mike Green's injury with just over three minutes left in the game might end up being the biggest news of all.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Maybe it's March Madness or maybe it's seeing Rick Tocchet behind the Tampa bench last night, but I'm in the mood to make a bet - $10 says Don Cherry leads Coach's Corner on Saturday night with "Mike Green's injury was the hockey gods paying back the Capitals for Alexander Ovechkin's ridiculous celebration." And he'll be half-right - the celebration was silly and unsportsmanlike, even if it was simply taunting an old man a couple thousand miles away. Was that AO or TO? Or Jimi? Should we just start calling him "Ocho"?
- Simeon Varlamov was very aggressive and confident, and while that worked for him, there were a few times where he was so far out to challenge the shooter that an extra pass would have led to an easy opportunity. His rebound control, especially when he was deep in the net, also left a lot to be desired. But his athleticism? Unreal. And given that those other knocks are correctable with teaching and experience...
- If the Caps can get two goals a night from someone other than the Big Four, they're going to win a lot of games. Kudos to the secondary guys for stepping up.
- Before Green was injured on an awkward entanglement with Steven Stamkos, he had potted another two goals, including the eventual game winner. Just curious - if the crossbar was four inches lower, would Green have a single goal this season? Kid sure does like to go top shelf where mama keeps the peanut butter.
- Viktor Kozlov was strong on the puck and had a three-assist night to show for it. He was at his best, of course, when skating with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the third period after the Care Bears line was mercifully separated.
- Speaking of the AO-Backstrom-Alex Semin trio, a good friend floated the theory to me that Bruce Boudreau has been skating them together so that he can look back after five games, show them how unproductive they've been and that'll be the end of that. Interesting theory.
- Is there any doubt that "cerebral" was yesterday's entry on Locker's "Word of the Day" calendar?
- Don't look now, but Michael Nylander has points and plus ratings in three of his last four games.
- Tomas Fleischmann's pointless streak has now reached double digits, and the "F Street" line ended the night with no points and a minus-3 (though Eric Fehr looked to have scored on the rebound of a Sergei Fedorov shot on a breakaway).
- Speaking of Feds, it's certainly unfortunate that it took a Boyd Gordon injury to get him back killing penalties (even more unfortunate that he was on the ice for the Bolts' power play goal), but in the long-run, this will be a good thing. Oh, and you know how I feel about 0:00 of shorthanded time for Alex Semin.
- Backstrom won 10 of 13 draws. That's not a typo.
And so it's off to Raleigh, where the Caps will face a desperate 'Canes team. The big question is whether or not their blueline bomber will be joining them.