Tampa Bay Upends the Caps

Late Rally Falls Short After Washington Gives Up Three Goals in the First Period: Lightning 5, Capitals 4

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006; Page E01

Washington Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig summed up last night's drama-filled 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning the way only a longtime NHL veteran could.

"Sometimes when you're a young team," he said, "and things are going good, maybe you forget what got you into that position. I thought we were a little overconfident."

Jamie Heward
Jamie Heward scores in the second period, but the Capitals had already fallen behind by two goals. (Mitchell Layton - Getty Images)

Kolzig's comment cut straight to the core of what occurred at Verizon Center before an announced crowd of 10,417: The up-and-coming Capitals underestimated the been-there-done-that Lightning.

It proved to an enormous miscalculation.

Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier dominated every meaningful statistical category through the game's first 40 minutes. And although the Capitals struck twice in the third period and pressed hard for the equalizer in the final minute of play, they couldn't overcome two periods of sloppy, mistake-ridden play.

"I can't believe that anyone wouldn't respect Tampa Bay," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "They have 11 guys who have won Stanley Cups. There's a fine line between being confident and being respectful."

St. Louis had two goals and Lecavalier and defenseman Filip Kuba each had a goal and two assists for the Lightning, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Washington, meantime, lost in regulation for only the second time in 10 games.

The Capitals managed to make things interesting late after Kris Beech scored on the power play with 9 minutes 31 seconds left to play and defenseman Bryan Muir scored a long wrist shot 1:43 later.

Muir's goal made it 5-4 and caused some tense moments for Tampa Bay. But the tying goal never came thanks to goaltender Marc Denis, who recorded 13 of his 20 saves in the third period. Kolzig made 30 stops.

"We were too relaxed from the opening shift," Capitals defenseman Steve Eminger said. "We're not a team that can rely on playing a relaxed, skilled game. We have to do what we do every game, which is work hard."

A critical mistake by Eminger led to what turned out to be the decisive goal. In the final minute of the second period, Eminger mishandled the puck along the side boards.

It wound up on the stick of Ruslan Fedotenko, who skated in on Kolzig. The rebound came out to winger Nikita Alexeev, who buried it to put the Lightning ahead 5-2 with 42 seconds remaining before the second intermission. The Capitals never fully recovered.

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