The Washington Capitals matched a franchise record they set back in back in 1984, ten straight wins. But getting number ten proved to be a bit difficult for the Caps as the Tampa Bay Lightning, the last team to hand the Caps a loss, made things interesting late in the third. It would be the team's captain that settled the score and handed the Caps a piece of history as the Caps undo the Bolts 3-2 at Verizon Center.
Ovechkin scored the game winning goal over halfway through the third period after the Caps had let a 2-0 lead slip away. The Lightning were able to tie it in the third and pressured to get the late goal to force overtime. Nick Backstrom scored his 23rd goal of the game (a career best) and Brooks Laich gave the Caps the two goal lead after Lightning goaltender Mike Smith blew a wheel.
The game started pretty physical, the Lightning taking it to the Caps pretty quick. Ovechkin was nearly run by everyone on the first line in the first minutes. But the top line for Washington was able to dominate the play when they wanted too and often times pinned the Bolts into their own zone. The Caps would benefit from a penalty call early in the second period and Backstrom scored off of a rebound shot in from the point by Alex Ovechkin.
The Caps would extend their lead later in the second period when Smith took a tumble as Alex Semin and Tomas Fleischmann moved the puck from east to west. The return pass to Semin gave him an open net, but a Lightning defender blocked the shot. Laich was there to puck up the loose puck and still take advantage of the awing net. It looked as if the Caps were going to run away with another game.
But in the third period, the Lightning seemed to turn their game around and put forth a better forecheck inside the Capitals zone. Martin St. Louis scored off of a deflected point shot to make it 2-1. Then for some reason, the officials blew Backstrom for hooking on the ensuing face off. It was clearly a phantom call as replay showed nothing out of the usual, but it put the Caps down a man. While on the PK, Fleischmann pickpocketed Vincent Lecavalier but gave up the puck right after. Flash picked up the hooking call giving the Lightning a 5 on 3 advantage and extended time with the extra man. The PP time paid off as Steven Stamkos scored his 29th of the season on a one timer feed.
Alex Ovechkin seemed determined to get shots on net, but the Lightning were quick to get into the shooting lanes. Ovi would have 11 of his shots blocked. But when he found an open pocket and a Bolt defender reaching he score the game winning goal low, just past Mike Smith as he went to the butterfly. The Caps would hold on to win their tenth straight, besides a late push by the Lightning at the end.
With an all important face off in the Caps zone, the Bolts lost their cool as Lecavalier couldn't let his displeasure from being tossed from the face off dot get past him and took an unsportsmanlike that killed the last chance the Lightning had in the game. The Caps would take it and the ten straight wins.
It wasn't the Caps most perfect game, a little sloppy here and there. But the win at the end of the day is what counts. In previous games, the Caps seem to get some help from secondary scoring, but it seemed the Lightning did a good job of bottling up the other lines. The Caps did not get a goal from the defensive line like they had in the previous two games.
Tyler Sloan made an appearance as Karl Alzner was sent back down and Mike Green is serving his 3 game suspension. Sloan played very well through out the game, including making some key poke checks on the Lightning's young superstar Stamkos.
History can be made if on Tuesday night the Caps can make it 11 straight when they have to walk into TD Banknorth Garden in Boston to take on the Bruins.
- Fleischmann had two assists in this game, both secondary helpers on the first two goals. He had a chance to score off of a rebound but couldn't play the puck cleanly from his skates. He has improved somewhat since moving to the center position but his face-offs were only so so as he was 5 for 10, 5o%.
- Ovechkin is now just 4 points shy of hitting 500 career points. He also leads the teams in game winning goals with 6. Knuble is second with 4 GWGs.
- Tampa Bay Lightning had 13 giveaways in this game, included two by their goaltender Mike Smith.