With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here. If you missed them last night check out the game story of the Caps’ 4-3 win over the Lightning and more on Braden Holtby’s outing.
>> The Capitals got quite the scare Thursday night as Tampa Bay roared back, cutting what was a three-goal Washington lead to a 4-3 with just 3 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in regulation.
Despite the faceoff loss by Mike Ribeiro that led to Teddy Purcell’s bad-angle goal, the turnover by Joel Ward that led to Nate Thompson’s breakaway and Braden Holtby’s ill-fated attempt at a poke check, though, Washington found a way to keep the Lightning from going the distance.
“You obviously have to use it as a learning curve,” Coach Adam Oates said. “We obviously did a lot of good things to make it 4-1. We made a mistake off a faceoff to make it 4-2 and then we didn’t protect the puck as good as we should’ve in their end and we gave a guy a breakaway, which we shouldn’t.”
Afterward, several players said that after Jay Beagle’s goal made it 4-1 they got a little too complacent against a team that is far too dangerous offensively. Perhaps the lesson they received Thursday will prevent similar situations from costing them much more in the future.
“We’ve tried to fall back on our systems and make sure that we’re doing the right things, but giving up a 4-1 lead and making it a game isn’t what we need right now,” Troy Brouwer said. “We need to be able to close out teams. We thought we had them; maybe that’s the reason why they were able to come back is because we let up a little bit, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re closing teams out, especially for divisional points.”
>> Rather quietly, the Capitals’ power play is ranked fourth in the NHL at 27.1 percent after converting on 13 of its 48 opportunities so far this season.
Brouwer’s first-period tally against Tampa Bay – the product of rapid puck movement and taking advantage of a developing pattern by the penalty killers – made the 4-3 win the sixth consecutive game in which the Capitals have recorded at least one power-play goal. Washington is 8-for-15 (53.3 percent) on the man advantage in those six games.
“We were ticking it around pretty good on the power play, guys were making good plays, seeing what was open,” Brouwer said. “We went through the first time and thought if that D-man is going to collapse a little bit then I might be open in the slot and it happened to work out.”
Thursday morning, Alex Ovechkin was asked what was working so well on the power play.
“Sometimes great play by our goaltending, they give us pass for breakaways,” Ovechkin joked, referring to Holtby’s pass to Brouwer on Feb. 9 against Florida. “We just know exactly what we have to do; if we have chance to shoot it, we have to shoot it, and sometimes we make too fancy moves and it’s not working. It have to be simple. Right now, power play dictate the game.”
>> When Oates put Eric Fehr, Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward on a line together three games ago, no one knew quite what to expect. Two right-handed shots? A skilled and speedy but streaky playmaking center?
Since their first game together as a unit in the 5-0 win over Florida on Feb. 9, though, the chemistry was instant. They balance each other out well, Perreault likes playing with right-handed wingers, Ward and Fehr like working pucks along the boards and none hesitate to drive to the net.
The trio worked to create two Capitals goals at Tampa Bay – both by Fehr, and you can read more about his recent offensive surge a little later today on the blog. Through three games as a unit, they’ve been on the ice for six Washington goals and combined for 15 points.
While Fehr was the offensive star of the night with his first two-goal game since March 9, 2011. Perreault also made a little individual history with the first three-assist night of his career.
“The other two lines kind of dominate the opponents’ checkers because they got to worry about our other guys, so you need a third line that can go out there and provide some offense and be reliable,” Oates said. “That’s what they’re doing. They’ve got a little rhythm going right now, so it’s good for them.”
>> While the victory might not have been as thorough as the Capitals would have liked, what with allowing Tampa Bay a late charge and all, it was still a win. And it still extended Washington’s current streak to three games. As the Capitals try to inch up the standings, each pair of points is valuable.
“Winning three, whether it’s rock-scissor-paper or whether it’s hockey, whatever, you’re excited about winning three games in a row, for sure,” Ward said. “You definitely don’t want to be losing. I think that the skid that we had, we tried to have a refresh, reset button after Pittsburgh. To come out and just work hard in the next couple days and we were fortunate to get a couple of good games in.”