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Recap: Caps 3, Lightning 0

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[AP Recap - GameCenter - Game Summary - Event Summary]

With Alex Ovechkin on the sidelines the last two games, the Capitals put together back-to-back dominant performances - picking up four points and a hell of a lot of goals. And while getting someone like Ovechkin back in the lineup is never a bad thing, there was some question as to whether the team would continue to step up or revert back to relying on #8.

There were certainly some shaky moments, but by the end of the night there was no longer a question. The Caps were able to welcome back the best player in the world and still put together a fine team road win - with everyone doing their part, Ovechkin doing his thing and a certain Russian in net doing everything and more.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The story before the game was Ovechkin's return; after, however, it was all about Semyon Varlamov - and rightfully so. Tampa always seems to have some firepower, but Varly stood tall and made all the routine stops, all the tough stops, and all the stops that made you wonder just why this kid still isn't getting Calder talk outside of CapsNation. Tremendous effort by Varlamov en route to a 26-save shutout.
  • On the other end of the rink, Tampa got a pretty decent showing from their own netminder, Mike Smith. He made a lot of saves that had guys searching the rafters for guidance, and one especially dazzling glove save on Alexander Semin that seemed to surprise even him. 
  • Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and  Alexander Semin couldn't buy goals tonight despite many golden opportunities. Some of that was Smith. Some of that was over-passing. And some of it was just pure bad luck.
  • There was a time when Vincent Lecavalier was a pretty prolific Caps-killer. There was also a time when he scored goals period, and neither one was happening tonight. With all due respect to Vinny, I'm sure we were all happy to let his little slump continue at least one night more.
  • Overall it was a good road win, but the Caps certainly played with fire in the opening twenty minutes. Too many passes, too many squandered opportunities and too much flash without any finish. The puck possession, particularly on the first power play, was certainly dazzling - but if no one's going to shoot, no one's going to score. And that's why the period ended 0-0.
  • Not sure if you heard, but Alex Ovechkin was suspended for two games. Oh, and he came back tonight. And scored two goals, one of the gorgeous kind and one we'll just nickname "Brooks Laich". For those of you keeping track at home, that's 22 goals and 20 assists for Ovechkin in 31 games against the Lightning. Yawn.
  • If you had to pick someone to play Mike Duco / Daniel Carcillo in tonight's little drama, Steve Downie would probably have been a good pick. He did rack up quite a few penalty minutes, but the fact that they were all spread out and stuff clearly stymied the Caps, and they failed to cash in. They did finally get one with big Lecavalier in the box, though - and killed off all four penalties whistled against them, too.
  • Eric Fehr is simply on fire. Either that or he's simply just starting to achieve the potential he's had hovering over him since he was drafted back in 2003. Whatever it is, we're not complaining - another shift crashing the crease, another goal, and just like that Fehr's up to 15 points in 20 games.
  • Mike Green had no shots on goal and got knocked down in what was probably an ill-advised check attempt late in the game. He also finished +1, with two hits, two blocked shots and a takeaway in just over 26:00 of ice time - and no goals were scored. We'll take it.
  • In fact, the entire blue line earns some special praise tonight. There were some little mistakes here and there, but all in all a solid defensive outing (if you can call zero goals against merely "solid"). And good on John Erskine for coming to the defense of a fallen Brian Pothier late in the third.
This is a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has clearly made some strides and is a much more formidable opponent than they were just a year ago.

Still, it would have been easy for the Caps, with Ovechkin back in the lineup and riding a 5-game winning streak, to attempt to coast through this game. It would have been easy to assume that offense only needed to come from the top line. But while Ovechkin did have two goals, it wasn't just because of him that they take away another two points - and maintain their pristine record against both the Lightning and the Southeast.

Tonight the individuals shone, but it was the team that earned the win.

Game highlights: