Remember that story I wrote the other day about the Caps being more disciplined and how their penalty kill was facing fewer shorthanded situations because of it? Well, it's a good thing I wrote it when I did, because my editors might not have let it get in the paper after the Lightning scored four power play goals to hand the Caps a penalty-filled 7-4 loss tonight.
Here's my gamer, but because of a tight deadline and space constrictions, most of the stuff about the Alex Ovechkin-Steve Downie confrontation is going to be on the blog tonight. I've got a fair amount to cover so let's get right to it:
*In addition to earning a fighting major and a 10 minute misconduct, Matt Bradley was given an instigator penalty when he jumped between Alex Ovechkin and Steve Downie as the two squared off in the third period. Coach Bruce Boudreau said the referees told him the instigator was assessed because Bradley, in their opinion, had left the bench to stick up for Ovechkin.
Bradley and Boudreau, however, dismissed that claim.
"I changed for [Eric Fehr]," Bradley said. "I changed and went out. There was no leaving the bench, and I think the video is pretty obvious if you look at it."
Boudreau added: "That's what the refs told us, that he got the [instigator] for leaving the bench. We told them it didn't happen. They said they can rescind that if that isn't the case."
*The confrontation began when Ovechkin crushed Downie near the Lightning bench with about eight minutes remaining. Ovechkin said he was upset because Downie had snapped his stick with a slash that went uncalled earlier on that shift. The two tussled after the hit - and it looked like Downie sneaked in a fist to Ovechkin's face, too - and both players were sent off for roughing.
"The referee don't even look at my stick," Ovechkin said. "No call."
When Ovechkin and Downie came out of the box, they quickly found each other and squared off again. It was the last thing Boudreau or the rest of the Caps wanted to see.
"The last thing you want to see is Alex fighting," Brian Pothier said. "I think Brads did a real heroic thing [by] stepping in. It's not that Ovie can't handle himself . We all know he's one of the strongest guys in the league, but we don't need him to be [fighting]."
Boudreau added: "You knew Matt would step in. The last thing we want is Alex fighting."
The Caps' toughest player, John Erskine, by the way, could only watch the events unfold from the pressbox. He's sidelined with an upper body injury.
*Former Caps captain Jeff Halpern told reporters in the Tampa Bay locker room that he thought Ovechkin's hit on Downie was "dirty".
"I thought it was a dirty hit," Halpern was quoted as saying. "He's a hell of a player, and he plays hard, but it's still a dirty hit. He's charging from his bench, Downie makes a move and he sticks his knee out there. It's not the cheapest hit in the world, but it's still a dirty hit."
*It's going to be interesting to see which goaltender gets the start tomorrow in Sunrise. Michal Neuvirth was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots in the first period; Jose Theodore allowed three on 21. Neither goalie got much help.
"I thought Neuvy kept us in the game and was really good and he didn't deserve to get this kind of treatment in front of him," Boudreau said of why he pulled Neuvirth after the first period.
*Boudreau on the past two first periods: "Obviously we weren't ready to play."
One has to wonder if back-to-back unusual pre-games had something to do with it. On Saturday, they left the morning of the game instead of the day before because of plane trouble and were outshot 18-6 in Atlanta. Today, they had no morning skate because the ice wasn't ready and were outshot 15-7 (and, more important, outscored 4-1).
Not making excuses, but ...
*Pothier on the sloppy ice: "It was horrific. Every time you took a stride, it was mush, just exploding. They had the circus in here for a week. It probably the worst ice I've been on in a long time."
It's a good thing no one popped a groin muscle. So, see, I guess there was something positive tonight.
*Mike Green scored two goals -- and was on the ice for six of the Lightning's seven. His partner Shaone Morrisonn was on the ice for all seven.
*Just when it seemed the Caps' penalty kill had perhaps turned the proverbial corner, the unit allowed three power play goals on three opportunities through 40 minutes, and four total.
Brooks Laich was in the penalty box for two of them.
All in all, it was a wretched night for the Caps. The good news for them is that they won't have to wait long to get a chance to redeem themselves.
I'm headed home tomorrow, so Amy Shipley, the Post's reporter who is based in Miami, will be stepping in for me. I'll rejoin the team for Friday's home game against Toronto.