After taking on two of the Atlantic Division’s Canadian contingent, it was time for the Caps to head south to face the Lightning of Tampa Bay. Games between these two squads never seem to be dull (with the exceptions of any games during their respective Dale Hunter/Guy Boucher eras), thanks to the boatload of talent on both sides. This one seemed to fall right in line with the rest, featuring a little bit of everything.
First, here's Monday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Special teams were sharp once again, with the power play clicking twice in four tries while the penalty killers were almost pitch perfect.
- Minus: The Caps were flying through most of the first two periods, but they sat back a bit late in the second and into the third, and seemed downright winded at times as they let a two-goal lead slip away. It’s way too early in the year to be tired, fellas.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Rough start to the game for the team’s third-pair defensemen, and particularly Aaron Ness, who played less than four minutes in the first period and yet somehow found himself in the penalty box twice during that span.
- Thankfully, the team’s crew of penalty killers were up to the task, on those minors and most of the rest - including an insane kill early in the third period that saw the Lightning set up shop for the full two minutes and fire six shots on net. Excellent work by the PK, and by Philipp Grubauer in particular (who picked up where he left off last year with a strong game overall).
- Every once in awhile Nicklas Backstrom likes to remind all of us that he does, in fact, know how to shoot the puck rather than pass it - and when he does, his shot is actually not bad. And a lot of the time that shot ends up in the back of the net. That was the progression of events that opened up the scoring and gave the Caps their first lead of the night.
- Less than two minutes later, the lead grew to two when a slashing call on Tampa sent the Caps to work on the power play. A whistler from the point by John Carlson nicked off of T.J. Oshie to get by Andrei Vasilevskiy for a two-goal cushion heading into intermission.
- The Lightning would get one back early in the second after an extended shift by the Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Vrana line led to a neutral-zone turnover, which led to a rocket of a shot by Alex Killorn past Philipp Grubauer, which led to the Caps’ lead being cut in half.
- The two-goal lead would be restored a little over two minutes later, however, as the Caps went back to work with the extra man. This time it was T.J. Oshie with the bomb from the point, his second of the night.
- Early-season hockey, a four-act play:
“Chris Kunitz plays for Tampa now?”
“Oh right, Chris Kunitz is now in Tampa.”
“Chris Kunitz of the Lightning, apparently, is totally scoring a goal tonight.”
~ Chris Kunitz scores a goal ~
- Nikita Kucherov has one filthy backhand shot. That is all.
- Have to wonder at the penalty call on the Caps in overtime, which was a bit close as too many men on the ice calls go. Nonetheless, that was the call that was made, and the Caps had no choice but to go out and try to kill it... which they came within seconds of doing before a deflection past Grubauer ended the game. Alas.
Games early in the season are never pretty, and this one certainly was not. They can be fun, though, and this one absolutely was, even if the outcome wasn’t what we were looking for. Despite the loss, the Caps continue to pick up points in the standings... and now head home for a rematch against those fowl Champs Wednesday night.
And now, this...