It was a hard fought battle for the Southeast Division last night. 16,835 were in attendance to see the 2-1 shootout loss suffered by the Lightning.
The game started off with a spark and Nate Thompson nearly killed Captials goalie Michal Neuvirth with a head-hunting wrist shot that broke Neuvirth's mask.
And speaking of Nate Thompson, he was all over the ice all night, putting five shots on goal and a great job on the penalty kill, playing just over 17 minutes, second in forwards only to Adam Hall with 18 minutes.
In the third quarter of the first period, the Lightning opened the scoring in the first period with a power play goal on a tip-in by Sean Bergenheim, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos picking up the assists.
Braden Holtby replaced Michal Neuvirth in goal at the start of the second period, and it looked hopeful with the first shot by Steven Stamkos bouncing off the goal post and out.
The Lightning also had two power play chances within the first five minutes of the second period and couldn't capitalize. Chalk that up to the good Capitals defense and great goaltending by Braden Holtby.
Washington really found their legs about halfway through the second period, playing much better and generating much more shots and chances than the first. Washington got their first full power play around the halfway point of the period, but a great penalty kill by the Lightning snuffed the attempt.
About three and half minutes in the third, the Lightning created a major chance and Vinny put in a goal that went to review and subsequently waved off because it was deemed that Marty St. Louis was interfering with Braden Holtby's ability to make the save. Marty was tripped and fell into Holtby. Although it's a tough call to make on the goal and most likely the right one, it's not a tough call to see that Marty was tripped.
Late in the third period, the Capitals tied up the game with an Alexander Semin goal. Dennis Wideman and Alexander Ovechkin picked up the assists on the goal.
Both teams battled until the end of the third, both generating scoring chances, including an open net for Capitals forward Jason Arnott, who sent a backhander wide.
Dominic Moore, Adam Hall, and Vincent Lecavalier went into the shootout for the Bolts. All were denied by Braden Holtby.
Alex Ovechkin went first for Capitals and scored. Semin followed, but Roloson made the save.
"It felt like a playoff game," St. Louis said after the game. "We came out and played. We played like we played tonight in terms of our effort, so no, we're not concerned about losing four straight. I'm concerned that we need results now, but I'm not concerned with our play."
The momentum was clearly the Lightning's in the first period, they came out with intensity and confidence. They certainly didn't look like a team that has lost four in a row. They played about as well as you can play against the big offensive weapons of the Capitals.
Both teams played well defensively. The Lightning and Capitals had their sticks on the ice and broke up lots of cross-ice passes. Both teams brought a great physical presence to the game, with all players getting in and throwing hits on whoever was in their path. Even Marty got in on the action with a couple hits.
All three goalies played exceptionally well, too. Plenty of great chances for both teams and the goaltenders' robbed them of a sure goal. Save of the night was definitely Braden Holtby's stick save on Simon Gagne.
In addition, we've already talked about certain comments about made by Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau about a couple of the Lightning players. Coach Guy Boucher had this to say:
"His comments are the last that matter to me in my life. The only people who I really about who have an opinion are Mr. Vinik, Mr. Yzerman and the rest of our team. The rest, I couldn't care less."
I think Marty said it best, when you're playing like the Lightning have been playing, the frustration isn't losing, it's about getting the goals that it takes to win games. Coach Guy Boucher agrees, saying "I'm very happy and I have a lot of respect for what our guys are doing. The players' had the drive and the dedication to make this game what it was today."
The Lightning continue their home stand against the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday, March 9th at about 7:30 PM. It's another big game for the Lightning, and while the Lightning can't take the lead of the Southeast with the win tomorrow, it'll definitely be a big win stopping their skid as well as beating the defending Stanley Cup champions.