The Caps blew their chance to even the series up before heading to Tampa for Games 3 and 4. The fans at Verizon Center watched helplessly as the Lightning took penalty after penalty and the Caps powerplay failed to do anything about it, only to see the Lightning net another powerplay goal. They watched helplessly as the Lightning got another lucky goal off of a defenseman, Mike Green this time. And they watched helplessly as Vincent Lecavalier got the overtime winner on a defensive breakdown.
The Capitals played good hockey in the second period, but the temptation to return to their old habits was too much for them, as they didn’t execute the plays they needed to and only came away with one goal in the period. The Caps need to get back to playing smart hockey. The Lightning are hanging on by a thread, with injuries mounting and fatigue figuring to be a huge factor with back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The Bolts are sticking to a system built by a brilliant coach, who is turning the Capitals worst tendencies against themselves, and they are getting a little bit of luck. The Lightning got decent goaltending from Dwayne Roloson, but he didn’t have to be brilliant by any means to stop the Caps’ chances, and when the Caps really turned on the pressure with smart hockey plays, they were rewarded.
The Caps’ unwillingness to pay the price on the powerplay and in front of the Lightning net is telling. Coach Bruce Boudreau has also made it clear who is going to get the ice time, and it will not be Matt Hendricks (scratched), John Erskine (9:20 TOI), or Matt Bradley (8:50). By virtue of scoring the first goal early in the game, the Lightning are dictating the ice time of the Capitals’ top players, and it is starting to even out the fatigue factor. This was quite apparent on John Carlson’s last shift of the game when he made several sloppy mistakes after skating 26 minutes on the night, costing the Capitals the momentum and territorial advantage they had built up in overtime just before they were scored upon.
The Caps did not deserve to win this game and they won’t deserve to win until they are willing to play their system, which is smart, patient defensive hockey combined with an amazing offensive ability. The Lightning are a worthy opponent, and they are playing like the better team right now. If the Caps started playing like a team, they would start to win games. It almost seems as though the Capitals strolled into this series expecting it to be easy and failed to respect their opponent.