When the Caps and Lightning get together, it's rarely dull - and even though they no longer share a division, tonight's game was no exception. From the ice issues to the goals (and non-goals), this one had a bit of everything and something for everyone.
Well, unless you like really pretty hockey, that is, because there was not much of that to be found. But it was exciting, and it was a win... so we'll take it.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The crazy started early in this one - before puck drop, even, as a recent visit from the circus meant a new sheet of ice in Tampa (insert joke about the Caps' visit meaning the circus is still in town... here). It was also apparently a defective one, particularly in the visiting goalie crease. That resulted in one of the stranger things to happen in an indoor game, with the teams switching sides around the halfway mark of each period. Not confusing at all. Nope.
- Tampa would strike first in this one, when Troy Brouwer tried to be too fancy along the blue line - and of the tools in Brouwer's belt, being fancy ain't one - which resulted in a turnover to Ondrej Palat, who got the puck to Lightning rookie Tyler Johnson, who put it top shelf past Philipp Grubauer. Amazing how well Brouwer has been playing of late, and just a few shifts into his reunion with Brooks Laich, that happens. I'm not saying... I'm just saying.
- Less than three minutes later it was all knotted up thanks to Eric Fehr, who cashed in on a beautiful pass from Alex Ovechkin to put one past Anders Lindback. Believe it or not, that was just Ovechkin's second even-strength assist of the season. Even crazier? It was his first primary assist at five-on-five. No offense to his usual Swedish running mates, but putting him next to a guy who shoots the puck will probably help that particular stat improve.
- And then it was just over three minutes later when the Caps would take the lead on their first power play of the night, as a slapshot from Mike Green ricocheted off of just about everyone on the ice (and perhaps a few people in the stands) before finally clicking past Lindback. It was eventually credited to Mikhail Grabovski for his 12th of the season - and goes into the books as Green's 200th career assist. He does like to get milestones against the Lightning, doesn't he?
- We mentioned earlier that this game was somewhat lacking in the "good hockey" department, and that was never more clear than on Tampa's second goal. Noted goal-scorer B.J. Crombeen turned an errant pass into an odd-man rush (one of many odd-man rushes throughout the evening, by both teams) on which John Erskine looked entirely too slow and entirely too unwilling to try and take out the stick. Bad, bad play.
- It was almost a tie game shortly after when a scramble in front of Grubauer led to a double-deflection off of Ondrej Palat's skates and into the net. Pretty cool play, admittedly, but trying to kick it in with both skates doubles the chances that at least one of those is a distinct kicking motion. The verdict from up above? No goal, a rare decision in the Caps' favor. Remember that one, we'll get back to it...
- Let's just call a spade a spade - whatever line Alex Ovechkin is on is the top line, regardless of where his pal Nicklas Backstrom plays. This is even more true when Backstrom is playing between the dynamic duo of Laich and Brouwer, who are just better complementary pieces to anyone else but each other, and that line was fairly invisible tonight (horrible Brouwer gaffe aside). The top line, anything but invisible, as they had some of the night's more dominant shifts. And if someone hadn't put baking grease all over Ovechkin's stick blade tonight, he could have had a couple of goals of his own to go with the goals by his linemates. I bet it was Stamkos.
- Palat almost tied up the game in the second period on a goal that eventually was disallowed. He'd strike again with five minutes left in regulation, this time tipping a shot down and past Grubauer for yet another play for the eye in the sky to review...and this time it went against the Caps. The Caps continue to lose the battle with the NHL War Room, as that makes at least five times this season that a goal review has gone in favor of the Caps' opponent. That's not to say that any of them were the wrong call, of course - it's just another frustrating aspect of a season full of them. Speaking of which, hello there, blown lead.
- Fun fact: heading into tonight's game, the Caps and Lightning had faced off 53 times since the start of the 2005-06 season. In all but 15 of those 53 games, and each of the last six, at least one of the two teams scored at least four goals (and many times they both did). Thanks to Palat, the Bolts had three. Thanks to Marcus Johansson doing what he does best, so did the Caps. So odds were that someone was going to get at least that many again tonight...
- ...and so they did, when Eric Fehr tipped another Green shot past Lindback with just under a minute remaining in regulation. So that's twice tonight that Green was denied his 100th career goal because of someone getting in front of the net...yeah, we don't think he'll mind much, either. Although it would've been cool to see him get that goal with exactly 52 seconds remaining, wouldn't it?
The Caps have been doing a lot of things right of late despite their four-game losing streak, with the few things they've done wrong ending up being the difference. But it felt like eventually things had to go their way, and they did tonight, with a bit of luck, some timely plays and a big save or two from Grubauer - and finally the skid comes to an end.
Not a minute - or 52 seconds, to be exact - too soon.