It was supposed to be the passing of two ships going in different directions in the middle of the night. The once vaunted Washington Capitals, losers of three of their last four games, were coming back to Earth. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the young upstarts who had won five straight games, were closing in on the best team in the Southeast Division.
A win by the Lightning and two measly points would separate the teams.
Instead of coming in with their best performance of the year, the Lightning wilted at the sight of Ovechkin, Semin and Poti. The physical style of Tampa Bay's game, their precision on the power play and their relentless forecheck disappeared into the fog of a 6-0 woodshed whipping administered by the Caps.
So the old dog still had some bite left and the young pup was left to lick its wounds.
Having won five straight, the Lightning were feeling pretty darn good about themselves. They had gotten through a hellacious run of 10 of 12 games on the road (including four on the West Coast) and still found themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference. With Washington's slump, they rapidly made up the ground they had lost during the gauntlet.
Tampa Bay even had time to take photos and play street hockey in front of the White House.
Perhaps they should have conserved their energy for the Capitals.
"They'd won five in a row, and sometimes those are the teams you want to catch because they're due for a bad game," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters after the game.
Tampa Bay certainly picked the wrong night for it. Alexander Semin registered a hat trick for Washington, where Lightning defensive lapses allowed great chances for him to score.
"You can't expect to beat a powerful team like that coming in with your lowest work ethic and lowest level of execution," Lightning coach Guy Boucher told the St. Petersburg Times.
"I'm pretty sure there's tons of turkey feathers out there on the ice from the first minute to the last."
"You are on a high, you're winning doing all the things right, then all of a sudden to show up like (we) did tonight, it kind of makes you wonder where was the team from the previous five nights," defenseman Mike Lundin told the Tampa Tribune. "We need to figure out how to eliminate games like tonight."
Despite the tough lesson, the Lightning are still right in the thick of things. Currently fifth in the Eastern Conference with 28 points, Tampa Bay remains within shouting distance of the Capitals.
However, until the Lightning can learn how to beat the top dog (they've been outscored 12-3 in their two meetings this season), they can't hope to end Washington's run of three straight Southeast Division titles.
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