Capitals 5, Lightning 4
Who says the Southeast Division is boring. The Capitals insert the new guys and the Lightning take advantage of a team that played the night before. The result, a 5-4 win for the good guys and a couple of grinders makes the difference.
Mike Knuble and Scott Walker were two players meant to give the Caps a better presence in front of the net. The pair of them contributed 2 goals each. Even if you do everything to keep Alex Ovechkin off the score sheet, it is the grinders that add the offensive spark the Caps needed.
Knuble has been hot, scoring 18 points in his last 15 games (11g, 7a). He would score two in this game, his 24th and 25th of the season. Eric Fehr scored his 16th of the season, a shot that fooled Mike Smith and hit top corner.
The Caps got into some penalty trouble late in the second period giving the Lightning a prolonged 4 on 3 power play. It would be the shot blocking heroics by Nick Backstrom who was with out a stick to stall the Bolts advantage. He blocked two big point shots and when Semyon Varlamov covered the puck, Backstrom got a pretty loud ovation for his efforts from the hometown faithful.
But give the Lightning credit, they didn't sit back. Vincent Lacavlier seemed to get the big goals when the Bolts needed most. The Caps, maybe a bit road wary, seemed to let up in the third. A few defensive miss reads kept the game interesting before Walker sealed the deal for the Caps. But we will get into the newcomers in a bit.
Varlamov was good in places. It was mostly a let down by his defensive squad and he had little chance of making the save. He did get some help at the beginning from his defensive squad, but the goals the Bolts were able to score Varly was left high and dry.
Newbie Capital Walker may have come to this team with only 3 goals this season, but he scored two big goals and shook off his offensive drought he had in Carolina. It made Eric Belanger and Joe Corvo's arrival seem less enthusiastic. But, overall, the new guys did well for the Caps.
The newcomers were learning on the fly, so I expected not to see too much from them. They didn't have a practice with the full team, only a morning skate. Walker seemed to fit right into the Caps aggressive forecheck and he quickly found a home in front of the net to gobble up rebounds and send them past the Lightning goaltender.
Belanger looks like he needs more adjustment time, but he showed some promise. He played on a line with Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann. It was a quick line, showing a lot of spark for a third line. Belanger would finish with a plus 1 and a few really sneaky shots that just missed the net.
Corvo did not overly stand out, but that might have been a good thing. He was on the ice for two of the Lightning goals, one on the penalty kill and the other was the tying goal by Steven Stamkos. He saw some power play time too. He looked okay to me, was solid defensively.
Milan Jurcina was the only "newcomer" not on the ice. He was a scratch, but I suppose we will see him in the lineup shortly.
With a day off, it will be interesting to see if the new players find new spots in the lines as Bruce Boudreau has time to teach their system and the boys work out the kinks.
The Caps jump out to a 14 point lead in the east over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens are looking to chase down the Caps with their improvements at the trade deadline. The two teams meet up later this month.