Lightning Held in Check

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2007

The primary objective of Matt Bradley, David Steckel and Quintin Laing -- the Washington Capitals' checking line -- is to prevent goals. But last night, the unit's biggest contribution came in the offensive zone.

Bradley deflected the decisive goal past Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Karri Ramo with 2 minutes 53 seconds remaining to cap a big night for the grinders and lift the Capitals to a 3-2 victory at Verizon Center.

The victory ended a three-game slide and gave Bruce Boudreau a win in his first day as a full-time NHL coach.

"I thought we deserved the win," Boudreau said. "We didn't score the first goal, but we kept on coming and coming and we were rewarded."

The Capitals twice fell behind on goals by Vincent Lecavalier, but the checking unit came through by doing what it does best: crashing the net and creating havoc. Steckel finished with a goal and two assists, and Bradley and Laing chipped in with an assist each.

Steckel initiated the winning play when he fired a shot from just inside the blueline. The puck hit Ramo and deflected up in the air. Bradley, who was battling for position at the edge of the crease, reached around Martin St. Louis and got just enough of the puck on its way down to send it pinballing into the net. (The play was reviewed.)

"I'm just lucky the puck hit my stick instead of his," Bradley said of St. Louis. "It made up for the one in the second period that I missed."

Bradley's goal, his second this season and first since Oct. 29, also allowed Boudreau to celebrate properly. Earlier in the day, the Capitals dropped the "interim" from his title. He's now 8-5-3 since replacing Glen Hanlon on Nov. 22.

"It's a great reward for me," Boudreau said. "It was fabulous."

The game was the Capitals' first after a three-day break for the holidays. The rest apparently did them some good, as they played with considerably more energy than they displayed in their previous game, a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday in which they were outshot 31-16.

"We had three days rest, and we wanted to make a bold statement," Steckel said. "And we did that."

Last night, they held a 32-20 edge in shots.

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