|I actually don't know what to say. Well, that's not entirely true...|
The Lightning got off to a fast start, getting the first great chance less than a minute in when a Vinny Lecavalier centering pass went right through the mouth of Michal Neuvirth's crease. Tampa continued to carry the play as the early stages of the period continued, gaining the zone often with speed, but were not able to get anything through the DC back end. Slowly, however, the Caps were able to get some momentum back when Randy Jones was boxed for interference at 7:13. On the man advantage, it looked as though the Caps had scored at 7:38, but it was waved off as they clearly had six men on the ice, and were given a bench minor as such. After a minute and a half of 4 on 4, the Bolts got an abbreviated power play, but the Caps were able to kill it off. After continuing to get chances as the period continued, however, Washington gave up the backbreaker first goal when Sean Bergenheim capitalized on a bad turnover by Brooks Laich and slipped one through Neuvirth's legs at 11:03. Playing from behind for the third game in a row, Washington tried to counter with a stiff forecheck, but it was admirably countered. Mike Knuble then took an elbowing penalty at 15:27 to send the Bolts to another power play. The Lightning got suffocating pressure on the opening end of the man advantage with puck movement and zone time, but shot several pucks wide and could not convert. Soon after, Eric Fehr got a golden chance in front off a turnover, but Roloson made another great save to keep his team in the lead. After a furious final minute, the frame ended with the Bolts ahead 1-0.
Washington got off to a great start in the second period, as Alex Ovechkin stole a pass in the neutral zone and broke in on Roloson, who poked it away; however Ovechkin collected the puck and threw it to the front where Mike Knuble popped it in at :59 to equalize. Energized by their early tally, DC kept coming with pressure on the forecheck and kept moving the puck smartly, but the Lightnining were able to recover admirably and keep the Caps off the board. As the period continued, however, Washington kept pressing and were finally able to break through for a lead at 7:58 when John Carlson bombed one past Roloson from the point. Really playing with vigor now, DC continued to control the puck for long periods and looked to have the Bolts in their heels once more. But the Lightning would not go away, and got the puck deep long enough to win a board battle down low and threw the puck in front to Lecavalier, who tipped it past Neuvirth at 11:51 to equalize. The stretch of play got even worse at 12:45 when Nicklas Backstrom was boxed for holding the stick. DC was able to kill off the first minute of the power play before Eric Brewer was called for holding, setting up 4 on 4. After a minute the Caps got an abbreviated power play, and could not convert. Soon after, however, Alex Ovechkin got free on a breakaway and was hauled down from behind, but the referee did not award a penalty shot, instead calling Brett Clark for hooking at 15:52. On the DC man advantage, Adam Hall was called for hooking at 16:26 to give the Caps a lengthly 5 on 3 advantage; Alex Ovechkin was finally able to break the power play hex with a rebound goal in front with 2:29 left. Jason Arnott then took a slashing penalty at 17:51, however, awarding the Bolts an abbreviated power play after more 4 on 4. On their power play the home side could not generate anything, and the period ended with DC ahead 3-2.
The Caps started out well again in the third period, getting a chance early from Alex Ovechkin that Dwayne Roloson was able to knock away with his blocker. The Lightning started to gain momentum as the early stages of the period moved on, however, setting up their own forecheck and getting two nice shots on Neuvirth that the goaltender had to do well on to stop. The Lightning continued to press, however, and Steven Stamkos took advantage of another poor turnover and shot the puck over Neuvirth's shoulder to equalize at 5:23. Seconds later, Ryan Malone crashed the net and scored again to take the lead for the Bolts at 5:47. Relentless, Tampa kept coming at the Caps in waves and Washington was very lucky to not get scored on again. Washington was awarded a power play with 8:57 left when Adam Hall was sent off for hooking, but the DC power play looked lackluster and gave the Lightning shorthanded chances of their own instead of attacking. After the power play was up the Bolts just kept on coming, hemming Washington in their zone for extended periods and getting brilliant chances on Michal Neuvirth, who had to make three or four amazing saves to keep the game only a one goal deficit. Despite their season clearly being on the line, however, the Caps simply refused to crank it up, and the Bolts kept pushing them back. With 1:47 left, Bruce Boudreau pulled Neuvirth and called his timeout, gearing up for the final push. It failed. Bolts win, 4-3.
Another truly pathetic performance from the Washington Capitals. In a game they absolutely needed to win, they came out flat and they let the Bolts walk all over them. They turned it on in the second and for one period had me thinking that they may be able to pull this off. Nope. Third period rolls around, what do we get? Outshot 15-5 and outscored 2-0. There was no effort. There was no fight back. And there will be no Stanley Cup.
Alex Oveckin played like a little child playing shinny in Moscow in the first period, trying to do everything himself again and getting embarassed by the physical Tampa defense. After that? He was the best player on the ice. I give him credit for showing up for the final 40 minutes and going after it full tilt, but the other players on his team did not care enough. It was a dynamic performance, but it was not enough. The great ones lead their team to the promised land. Ovechkin has not.
Well, this is bleak. Obviously, there is a chance, but it's up there with a palm tree in a hurricane. The Caps are totally and completely up against the wall, with literally nowhere to go. It's past desperation. It's past panic. It's...I don't even know what it is. It's bad.
Tomorrow night, it's do or die. 7 PM.