The Capitals and Lightning met in Washington, DC as Southeast Division rivals for the last time in history, the game's sixty three minutes of play a roller coaster of emotion for both squads. With Washington holding a three goal lead after forty minutes the Verizon Center was confidently rolling before the Lightning bit back in the third for three of their own, sending the team's last division meeting to extra time to decide a victor.
Mike Green would slap home his tenth goal of the season with Vincent Lecavalier in the penalty box for slashing, his teammates flooding the ice to celebrate their seventh straight win and two important standing points.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Capitals haven’t lost in seven straight games, picking up all fourteen of the points available to them in the month of April (during their longest winning streak of the season). Washington’s last regulation loss was on March 26th against the New York Islanders, tonight’s win marking their ninth straight game in which they have picked up a point. Way to go, boys.
- Ben Bishop was tested early and often in the first twenty minutes, facing twenty shots and yielding three goals. Before the Lightning skated out for the second period of play Head Coach Jon Cooper pulled Bishop in favor of veteran Mathieu Garon. While the Lightning would respond with two second period goals, Garon was no match for the playmaking of Mathieu Perreault. The French-Canadian posted a pair of beautiful primary helpers in the middle frame, tonight’s contest marking the fifth straight game with Washington scoring at least two goals in the second period.
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 27th of the season in the first period, taking a loose puck in the slot around an overcommitted Ben Bishop and behind the goaltender with a soft backhanded touch. The goal capped off a wild first period and put the Caps ahead by three heading into the second period. Ovechkin also had an assist in his nine shot performance.
- Who is Jack Hillen?, seriously, the third duo defenseman making $650k this year has been nipping at Green’s lofty offensive heels. With his sixth point in four games (including two goals in the last three) General Manager George McPhee’s decision to resign the Colorado College grad looks like a great addition to have over the next two seasons.
- Green took an awkward slap shot from the point that quickly elevated and struck the Lightning’s Nate Thompson in the right temple after breaking through his visor. The hard nosed winger immediately skated off the ice, blood coming from a wound next to his eyebrow. The injury reminds us that a visor does not prevent all damage done by pucks but will deflect a majority of the impact away from the orbital bones and nose. Thompson would only skate 3:47 on the night and we all hope for his quick return.
- Mike Ribeiro notched his 600th NHL point with his primary assist on Troy Brouwer’s game-opening goal, a no-look backhander that laid flat for the one time opportunity. The point pushes Ribeiro’s career average to .77 points per game, a player we should all be happy has stated his desire to stick around Washington, DC.
- Braden Holtby kept the Capitals in the contest late when the Lightning were outshooting the Caps 21 to 10 in the second period and 11 to 4 in the third. Whether the offense let up or the Lightning charged hard it was Holtby's thirty five save performance that gave Washington their chance to win it in overtime.
- Richard Panik, a second round 2009 Entry Draft choice, scored two goals through 15:32 of ice for the Lightning. While Stamkos (1A 4 shots) was largely held in check by Washington's defense Panik was able to touch two shots by Holtby, his third and fourth goals of the season. His early third period goal got the Lightning going and enabled the visitors to claim a point.
- Steven Oleksy was absent on the Lightning’s fourth goal, Martin St. Louis able to hang to the side of Holtby’s crease on one knee and tap home a Victor Hedman shot. While certainly one of the early season’s bright spots he has found himself on the wrong side of defensive coverage more than one, St. Louis’ second goal setting the stage for Teddy Purcell to tie it.
- The final Southeast Division contest has been played between these two rivals and the action fittingly needed extra time to finish. With so many great games played between these teams since 1998 their last one was certainly memorable, a barn burner that the Capitals had to win to keep their sights set on a Division Title. I often wonder where ‘Southleast’ arguers are after games like these.
Tonight's win feels good but breakdowns leading to a four goal lead evaporating can not remain uncorrected by the Coaching Staff as the Caps compete down the stretch. The two points earned by Washington are the most important stat of the night and will immensely help the Capitals through the season's final six games. An ugly win, but the ends do justify the means.
Washington hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, an opponent that could end up facing the Capitals if they end up clinching the Eastern Conference's third seed.