Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/15/12

Two nights ago on a Friday evening, Washington’s Verizon Center was packed with another capacity crowd (more than 125 consecutive sellouts) to watch the team in the red sweaters take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.  There was more than a little animosity in the air; after all, the Bolts were the team that humiliated the Caps in last year’s playoffs, sweeping them in four games of the second round.  Washington’s fans also were feeling a bit of anxiety as well, given the Capitals spotty performance of late.  After all, the Capitals had just squeaked out a 1-0 win at home against the Penguins following a pair of 5-2 losses on the West Coast.  Given Washington’s poor performance on the road where they rank 26th of the NHL’s 30 teams, winning at home has become especially critical.

The night started with a bang for the Capitals.  Less than four minutes into the first period, Alex Ovechkin scored on a power play to give the Caps a 1-0 advantage.  Less than two minutes later, Troy Brouwer lit the lamp on another power play to put the Capitals up 2-0.  That’s how the game stood for the next twenty minutes of play until Brouwer tallied a second time to put Washington ahead by 3-0, a little more than five minutes into the second period.

One would think that at this point, the game was well in hand.  Well, it appeared to this correspondent, that the Capitals must have felt that way as well.  For the next 35 minutes of play, the game was all Tampa Bay.  They outshot the Caps 23-12 in the second and third period, and scored a goal toward the end of the second period to shrink the Capitals lead to 3-1 at the start of the third.

Washington’s lackluster play continued in the third, seemingly willing to just knock the puck deep into the Lightning’s zone.  For those who might dispute this assertion, the fact that Washington was outshot 15-7 in the final twenty minutes speaks volumes as to how they played.  With 3:30 to play in the game, the Bolts’ star Steven Stamkos lit the lamp to bring them within one.

Now it became even more exciting.  Shortly after Tampa Bay pulled their goalie, Troy Brouwer drove home an empty netter to score his first career hat trick in his six years in the league.  Down 4-2, no one told the Lightning that the game was over.  49 seconds after the game was ‘over’, Vincent Lecavalier scored for Tampa Bay to again bring them within one.  Immediately after the horn sounded to mark the end of the game, the other sound heard in Verizon Center was the exhaling of the 18,506 in attendance who could finally breathe again.

It’s been said again and again that the Capitals must learn to play a full 60 minutes.  They didn’t on Friday, and it could very easily have cost them the game.  In the opinion of this correspondent, they were very lucky.

Here’s hoping that they do better against the Carolina Hurricanes today.

Let’s Go Caps!


This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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