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Capitals grind out tough shootout win against Lightning, improve Southeast Division lead

Mar 7, 2011, 10:28 PM EST

Vincent Lecavalier, Alex Ovechkin AP

Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau talked tough going into tonight’s clash for the Southeast Division crown, providing the Tampa Bay Lightning with even more motivation to take back the top spot. While it’s almost natural to assume that the two teams would ride their marquee names and finesse, both teams instead provided a blue collar effort, as the Caps cranked out a black-and-blue shootout win.

Washington 2, Tampa Bay 1 (SO)

The Capitals might leave the game a little banged up, as it’s possible that Michal Neuvirth and Nicklas Backstrom will join Mike Green and Semyon Varlamov among Washington’s walking wounded. Neuvirth gave way to Braden Holtby after one period because he took a shot to the mask while Backstrom might have re-aggravated a fractured thumb injury, as Holtby said that he left the game “shaking his hand” during his interview on Versus.

Both teams should be sore tomorrow morning, but the Capitals can soothe themselves with a two-point lead in the Southeast thanks to great relief work by Holtby (making all 21 saves and going perfect in the shootout) and Alexander Semin‘s continued success against the Lightning. Semin scored the game-tying goal, moving him to seven goals and two assists for nine points in only four games against Tampa Bay.

Guy Boucher’s decision to play the Tampa Bay’s best defensive forwards against Alex Ovechkin worked during regulation as the tactic kept the elite scorer off the board, but he still made an impact by scoring the shootout winner. In typical Ovechkin fashion, he showed plenty of emotion after the goal, holding a No. 1 finger up in the air as he passed the Lightning bench.

Boucher will be forced to ask questions about his choices for the shootout, as he left struggling Steven Stamkos and star winger Martin St. Louis on the bench in favor of Adam Hall and Dominic Moore. (His other choice was more conventional, though, as Vincent Lecavalier was the third shooter.)

Dwayne Roloson‘s great effort will probably be lost in the shuffle, as he stopped 29 out of 30 shots during the game and was only beaten by Ovechkin in the shootout. It appeared that Martin St. Louis scored the Lightning’s lone goal on the power play, but Sean Bergenheim was eventually credited with a deflection tally.

The Capitals are now on a five-game winning streak while the Lightning are on a four-game skid. Washington built their division lead to two points, although Tampa Bay holds a game in hand and the same amount of wins (37). The two teams won’t meet again unless they play each other in the playoffs, so it’ll be interesting to see how this race closes out.

The incumbent Capitals currently have the advantage, but with a banged up Washington roster, it’s too early to count out the Lightning. Especially since Tampa Bay still left with a charity point.

  1. aschwartz2011 - Mar 8, 2011 at 2:18 AM

    Way to ignore the BS interference call

  2. t9tookey - Mar 8, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    The Caps have fewer shoot out wins than the Lightning, I think the Verses crew said Tampa Bay had 2 more shoot out wins. With the fact that shoot out wins are not counted when it comes to a tiebreaker situation in the standings, anyone else think that Boucher wanted to le tthe Caps win the shoot out? It’s a risk, but if the Caps end up with more shoot out wins and the Caps are tied for the division at the end of the season with the Lightning, that would give Tampa Bay.

    Not saying Boucher put out who he did for the shoot out with this in mind, just food for thought.

    • abrienza428 - Mar 8, 2011 at 9:36 AM

      I doubt he would value making the shootout wins column more close than having an extra point in the standings. That point could mean the difference between having home ice in the first round.

  3. kantnockdahustle89 - Mar 8, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    @t9
    That makes no sense at all. I mean none. The Caps are now 4-2 (1 SO win) against the Lightning. Id think if I were the Lightning Id want all the tiebreakers in case there is a tie in points. No reason he “risked” losing the shootout. I just dont get that logic, even if for thought.
    Caps are 3-5 in SO to the Lightnings 5-5. The Caps winning two more shootouts with not many games left is highly un-likely and would still give them two more points if they were to win the SOs.

  4. jpelle82 - Mar 8, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    that quirky kid from hershey made the saves when they needed them but i will agree that was a BS interference call and it cost them the game.

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