It was quite the nail biter at the St. Pete Times Forum but thanks to a perfect performance from Braden Holtby in 45-plus minutes of action, the Capitals managed to capture a 2-1 shootout win over the Lightning. Washington increased its lead over Tampa Bay for the Southeast Division lead to two points and now trails Philadelphia by only two points for first place in the Eastern Conference.
But nothing can be simple for these Capitals. Holtby’s relief effort was necessary after the first shot of the game -- 23 seconds in by Nate Thompson -- hit off of starter Michal Neuvirth’s mask. Neuvirth was noticeably stunned after the puck ricocheted off his mask and took a few minutes to compose himself and then get his old, now practice, mask because the cage on his current one was bent.
Turns out that when the puck struck the cage, part of the metal from the mask entered Neuvirth’s eye and he wasn’t able to get it out for a while. Neuvirth didn’t return to the game for the start of the second.
“Michal’s fine,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. “The shot -- part of the metal on his mask went into his eye and he couldn’t get it out .He got it out and he was fine after that and he’s going to be OK.”
Late in the second period, Nicklas Backstrom left the game and wouldn’t return for the duration of the contest either. Boudreau said that Backstrom fell on his left hand and fractured left thumb.
Backstrom’s thumb and part of his hand appeared to be wrapped after the game but it was difficult to tell if he suffered any greater injury. Boudreau said he expects Washington’s No. 1 center to be fine as well. We’ll see if he takes part in the Capitals’ optional practice on Tuesday at KCI.
“He’s OK,” Boudreau said. “He wanted to come back. He just fell on his hand the wrong way. If you’ve ever had a sore finger or something it gets pretty tender.”
--Alexander Semin had perhaps the best night out of all the Capitals skaters even excluding his wicked wrister that tied the score at 14:28 of the third period. In 21:27 of ice time, Semin took six shots on Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson, with another six that missed the target. He also had a few notable back-checking efforts to help keep the Lightning at bay.
“He was good,” Boudreau said. “If he’s starting to get wound up that’s pretty good news for the Caps.”
--The non-goal less than four minutes into the third period that prohibited Tampa Bay from expanding to a two-goal lead was a huge turning point in favor of the Capitals. Lightning Coach Guy Boucher and his team were not happy with the call.