Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning: Game 1 Recap & Game 2 Keys for Caps

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Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning: Game 1 Recap & Game 2 Keys for Caps
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

There is no reason for panic in the nation’s capital, yet.

The Washington Capitals 4-2 Game 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning was purely by their own making.

However, if this year's Stanley Cup playoffs have taught us anything, it is that anything can and will happen.

Just ask the Lightning and Bruins, who both won Game 1 in this round after falling behind 3-1 and 2-0 in their first round series'. While the Caps lost Game 1 and home ice on Friday night, this series is a long way from handshakes at center ice.

However, the Caps will have to play with a better sense of urgency against the Lightning and they most assuredly will need to get more physical at the right and at the right spots on the ice.

Even though Washington outhit the Bolts 28-19, they were not physical in front of the net, in the corners or along the boards.

The Lightning seemingly got to all the loose pucks and out hustled the Caps.

The Caps played with more urgency in a 5-2 win in early February against Tampa in Florida than they did in their Game 1 loss.

As Washington did on many occasions earlier in the season, they failed to play for 60 minutes. Washington failed to carry the tempo as they did in the opening round against the Rangers and must keep their foot on the gas pedal in Game 2.

Washington also showed signs of rust from the six-day layoff and looked unprepared to counter Tampa's 1-3-1 defense, which they saw six times this past season.

The Capitals were sloppy and did not help their cause.

On many occasions, Washington missed the net in close with shots, jumped offside’s frequently and committed turnovers deep in their own zone, that were uncharacteristic of the Capitals in the last quarter of the season.

The Caps superstars need to be far less predictable with the puck. Instead of a curl and drag in the middle to high slot how about a hard Ovechkin wrist shot using the defensder as a screen.

While the play looks good, everyone on the planet knows Ovechkin and Semin are going to curl and drag or toe drag the puck to try and get around the defender. I'm sure if we know, the NHL defenders know.

Everyone also knows that Nick Backstrom is going to skate into the zone (hopefully onside) all the way around the net and try a weak wrap around attempt. Please drop the puck to a shooter or lay one in front of the net.

These guys are three of the best in the game but they have become predictable more often than not.

Surely, the Capitals see what can happen when you put the puck on the goalie when the opposition does not expect it be there. (see--Scott Hannan, John Carlson, Mike Green and everyone else who has defelcteed a shot past Neuvirth this postseason.)

Oh and by the way, The Caps power play flat out stunk. It was horrendous. It looked as bad as it did in the first round last season.

The Bolts are in the second round because of how effective their power play was in against the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one.

The Caps season will end here if they do not get better with the extra man. Washington was 0-for-five with the extra man, but on all but one advantage held the puck in the Lightning zone for many of their power play minutes.

While the passing was crisp, the shots were not as they were far and few between.

Washington had only five shots on goal during the 8:45 in which it had an man advantage, but the Lightning had as many shots on goal while shorthanded. On two extra man advantages the Caps recorded no shots on goal.

Unacceptable after a six day layoff! 

The power play turned the puck over three times, almost surrendered two short handed goals and got caught offsides three times.

Alex Ovechkin did not record a single shot on net with the man advantage—this despite his seven minutes and three seconds of ice time.

“I think we have to do a better job,” says Boudreau of his team’s work with the extra man.

“We weren’t getting to any loose pucks once there was a shot and we weren’t shooting the puck which is what we were talking about; get the pucks on the net, crash the net and simplify the game."

Boudreau continued with reporters following the game, “The first power play we had a really good chance but it took us a minute and 15 seconds to get even a shot on goal. I think we need to shoot more.”

The first Lightning goal, just 2:12 into the contest, was a perfect example of the Caps lack of physical play and the rust.

Mike Green began to skate out of the right defensive zone corner with the puck when the Bolts Sean Bergenheim poked the puck away from Green, deposited him into his own net, and then deposited the puck in the net with Green.

The Early 1-0 lead by the Lightning woke Washington from their six day nap as the Caps took advantage of sloppy play by the Bolts in their own zone to tie the game.

Marco Sturm stuck his stick in the passing lane of Bolts defenseman Brett Clark's attempted clearing pass. The tipped pass trickled onto the stick of Alexander Semin who wristed a shot that deflected off Tampa's goalie Dwayne Roloson and into the net.

The Capitals continued a furious pace following Semin’s goal as Washington would go on a 13-2 run in shot differential. However, this is where the rust kicked in.

The Caps were slow in getting many of their shots off which allowed a sprawling Dwayne Roloson on many occasions to get back into position for the save. 

Game 1 was filled with would of's, could of's and should have's for Washington. For the first time in this year’s playoffs, the bounces did not go in favor of the red and blue.

If you remember, we all agreed the formula for playoff success was playing great defense, riding a hot goalie, scoring timely goals and getting the lucky breaks.

You need a hot goalie, great defensive play, timely goal scoring and a little bit of luck.

On Friday night, the Caps were 0-4 with the playoff formula.

Sure, Michael Neuvirth made some great saves, yes, the Alexander Semin goal to tie the game was important but it was the Bolts that cashed in with the playoff equation for success in Game 1.

41-year-old Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson was shaky to start but recovered to make 26 saves besting his 23-year-old counterpart in Washington's net, Michael Neuvirth,who made just 20 saves.

Washington took the lead 2-1 when Capitals former first round draft pick, Eric Fehr scored his first goal of the playoffs. This occurred after a Brooks Laich goal was disallowed following a video replay which confirmed Laich kicked the puck into the net,

Following an offensive zone faceoff win by rookie center Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera took the puck and found Fehr in front of the Tampa's net where Fehr quickly fired a shot past Roloson for the go ahead goal.

That would be all of the scoring for Washington as Tampa would score the next three goals. The first of which would come in a fashion that the Caps have seen three other times already in this postseason.

In round one against New York, the Rangers scored three goals that either deflected off a Caps defenseman or simply went in the net as a fluke goal.

This would qualify as the timely goal scoring and lucky part of the playoff equation that went in favor of the Lightning in Game 1. Tampa’s' leading playoff scorer, Steve Downie would be the benefactor of this fluke or lucky goal.

The goal itself may have been lucky, but the Lightning once again took advantage of sloppy play by the Caps in their own end and earned the chance.

After another lazy attempt by a Caps defenseman to coral and control a loose puck. The Lightning gained control and scored by trying to make something happen in front of Neuvirth.

The victim this time was Jeff Schultz, as his pass never had a chance to get out of the zone.

After receiveing a pass, Downie attempted a backhand pass to the front of the net. The puck hit Scott Hannan's skate and deflected past Neuvirth for the tying goal.

The go-ahead goal for Tampa came on the power play and because of a coverage breakdown by Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson, and John Erskine in front of Neuvirth.

The Bolts special teams, especially their power play, are the biggest reason it is they and not the Pittsburgh Penguins playing the Caps in the second round.

Following a Jason Chimera roughing call and with just 32 seconds remaining in the middle frame, the Lightning would cash in for their first extra man goal of this series. 

The PP goal was the first time in six post-season games the Caps surrendered a lead in a game.

Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer pinched from his point position carrying the puck in deep. Instead of staying at home and boxing up, Karl Alzner took several strides towards Brewer, which left the NHL's second leading regular season goal scorer all alone in front of Neuvirth.

Marcus Johansson looked lost, John Erskine simply failed to move his feet and stood still as Stamkos poked away at a Brewers shot in front of Neuvirth. 

Stamkos finally stuffed the puck into the net for the eventual game winning goal.

Stamkos, who scored just four goals in the last 21 games to close out the season, notched his third of the playoffs. Dominic Moore hit the empty net and then the ice as Ovechkin blasted him after he closed out the scoring with .40 seconds left in the contest.

The Capitals pressed and recorded just five third period shots but it was not because they were not shooting the puck. Washington actually had 28 shots towards the goal in the third period but only five-reached Roloson.

Washington made the Lightning look like the mid 90's New Jersey Devils. Tampa blocked 14 shots and kept Washington at a distance, forcing attempts from the blue line and half boards.

The Caps lost rookie defenseman John Carlson late in the second period following a collision with Tampa Bay’s Nate Thompson. He is formally listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Carlson would return to the bench at the start of the third. He took two brief shifts of 20 and 16 seconds the rest of the night. The loss of Carlson caused a shift in philosophy for Boudreau who managed his teams and specifically his defenseman ice time to perfection against the Rangers.

Green played a team-high 27:05 in Game 1 against Tampa Bay, the most ice time he has played in any non-overtime game this postseason.

“When you look at Mike Green’s minutes being 27 minutes,” Boudreau said, “It’s too high.”

The Lightning could be without Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina for Game 2. Both are listed as day-to-day, according to Coach Guy Boucher, after they were unable to complete Game 1 because of their injuries.

Gagne, who has a history of concussions, was checked hard into the corner boards by defenseman Scott Hannan and landed hard on the ice hitting his head. A stretcher was brought onto the ice but Gagne skated off with help from the medical staff.

Hannan's hit was clean and he was not penalized on the play. Kubina's injury came when was hit into the glass behind the goal line by Jason Chimera. Chimera’s was given a roughing minor, which led to the go-ahead power play goal for the Lightning. 

It goes without saying that the Caps are in a must-win situation in Game 2. They can not afford to fall behind 2-0 heading to the Sunshine state.

The Caps must tweak every aspect of their game, but Boudreau, Ovechkin and company must find a way to "capitalize" with the extra man.

A repeat of another one-for-33 performance like last year in the first round against Montreal and it will be time to say that saying that always sits on the tip of the tongue this time of the year.

"Wait til next year."

Lets Go Caps—this is the year!

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