The Capitals’ focus Tuesday night wasn’t on the negative side of the 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay, but rather the positive elements that allowed them to squeeze a point out of a game that they trailed by two goals halfway through.
Chief among those attributes was Washington’s ability to cycle the puck and dominate possession as the contest wore on.
“I thought we controlled the puck maybe as well as we’ve done over the last 20, 30 games and that’s in our zone, in the neutral zone,” said Brooks Laich, who was on the ice for the Capitals’ first and third goals. “It felt like we had the puck more often than not — we were making them chase. It comes with good decisions, it comes with patience. Offensively we had some chances, there was pucks around the net. There were shots and second chances and third chances, just weren’t able to get the win.”
It certainly wasn’t perfect, the Lightning managed to create odd-man rushes and capitalize off some errant passes and turnovers but Washington was able to work the play down low throughout the evening to create scoring chances and chip away at time on the clock.
Once the Capitals climbed back and tied the game at 3-3 with a goal by Troy Brouwer 5 minutes and 53 seconds into the third and it became clear that the next goal would likely decide the contest, they focused even more on establishing the cycle and trying to keep things simple.
“We’ve turned way too many pucks over this entire season, and that’s kind what our goal is — trying to cut down on those,” Brouwer said. “Those blind plays that we do sometimes in the middle. We’ve got to cut those out. If there’s nothing there, then we cycle it down and look for something else. Last couple minutes there, guys were protecting the puck, making good cycles and we were controlling the play as a result.”
One of the best demonstrations of protecting the puck via the cycle
came from a thrown-together group of Mike Knuble, Joel Ward and Jeff Halpern on a shift that began with roughly a minute and a half remaining in regulation.
They were all on the ice for over a minute and put together a shift full of play along the boards, tight cycles and short passes. It looked like throwback hockey and the Lightning had little choice but to chase the play around their own zone. By the time Tampa Bay cleared the zone, Steven Stamkos was too tired to do anything but dump the puck in at the red line and head to the bench.
“They kept it in, they had it hemmed in there, they’re working and [Tampa Bay’s] dead tired,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “I thought we worked in their end very well, thought we forechecked well, got the cycle going, created a lot of chances.”
— In his first NHL appearance since April 2010, Joel Rechlicz skated just 1:49 on two shifts, both of which came in the first period. The Capitals signed him to a one-year deal, a two-way contract worth $525,000 in the NHL and $82,500 in the minors according to Capgeek.com, and recalled him from the AHL’s Hershey Bears on Monday.
If that’s all the ice time Rechlicz will see, though, it’s puzzling why the Capitals chose to add the tough guy to their lineup.
Asked about the plan for Rechlicz, Hunter replied: “He was a presence out there. There was no nonsense, we all played hockey.”