The Caps game against the Bolts, tonight, was quite a tilt. I missed the first minute-and-a-half due to DVR issues (started by the game being on the "wrong" channel), but at least set it up so that won't happen again. And I'm glad I tried to turn it on right away, because some times I would just wait for the kids to go to bed. If I'd done that, I would have missed almost the entire game.
The other thing I missed, other than that minute and a half, was the roster shuffling. Kundratek was still up (with both Erskine and Schultz being healthy scratches tonight), and Eakin was called up as well (with Perreault being a healthy scratch; odd, since he had a very good game against the Penguins). I got distracted when I was writing the other night; what I was leading towards was observing that if Schultz is getting scratched in favor of someone making their NHL debut, he probably isn't long for the team (which makes me a little sad. He's certainly not a spectacular player, but he is a young and good one).
Anyway, when I turned it on, the Caps were already on the power play. That PP was not a good one, with the Caps unable to generate even a single shot (and very little zone time). But they kept working, and got another PP opportunity less than a minute later, as Ward was able to draw an interference on Martin St Louis. This one looked much better, although I'm not sure it got more than one shot generated, but that shot, from OV, and through Brouwer's legs, found the back of the net.
Just over a minute later, the Caps got another power play chance when the Lightning defender, Brewer, played the puck over the glass from the defensive end. The Caps put a lot of pressure on, and got the puck down low to Brouwer, who was undefended. He waited a second or two for Rolo to flinch, and put the puck between the wickets to widen the margin (I believe it was the second shot on goal for the PP).
That was it for the first period scoring; shots were even at 8, but scoring opportunities were 6-3 in the Caps favor, so it was a very good period overall. It did even out a bit after Brouwer's goal, but the Caps were still looking good. And it almost felt like they heard my complaining in my last post; they did a good job generating offensive pressure. Maybe not as much of it as I could hope, but it was very good.
The second period mostly belonged to Tampa, although the Caps (and Brouwer) got another goal five minutes in when Laich threw it to the net, Knuble cleared out the defender and goalie, and Brouwer calmly tapped the rebound into the wide-open net. Not often you see a net that wide open when you're six feet out, in the center of the ice. As I said, the period favored the Bolts most of the way, but their goal came on a steal right by the Caps net. Martin St Louis snuck up behind Knuble, took the puck from him, and threw it to the front of the net, where Pyatt moved it past Vokoun.
The shots in the second were 8-5 in favor of the Lightning, but the scoring opportunities were even at four.
I'm less upset about the shot imbalance, because the Caps were ahead by so much. You expect that. Part of the reason the shot imbalance has annoyed me so much the last several games is that the Caps were playing much of the game down.
In any event, the Caps were going into the third with a nice, two-goal cushion.
At this point, I think the Caps sat back a little too much. Like I said, you expect a team down by several goals to put a lot more shots on net, but I'm not sure the Caps got a single shot before they finally drew a power play at the ten-minute mark. And it was a nice power play; no goals, but good movement with lots of chances (including two posts and four or five shots).
But things went downhill pretty quickly after that. Brouwer got a pair of penalties (one of which was a boarding call that I think was only made because he was hitting Martin St Louis, over whom he has a huge size advantage. Predictably, MSL went flying, and that drew a penalty.
They killed off that penalty quite nicely, but Hamr threw the puck over the glass eleven seconds later.
And then, great irritation set in for me, as my DVR stopped recording during the commercial break after the puck left the rink. So I missed Stamkos' goal thirty-six seconds later. I also missed Brouwer finishing off his (first career) hat trick with an empty netter with exactly a minute remaining. And then I also missed Lecavalier's goal with eleven seconds left. Can you believe that? Four minutes (on the nose), and three goals. Ugh.
So it was quite an exciting finish to the game, but, thankfully, the Caps held on for the regulation win.
Pittsburgh mauled the Panthers tonight, as well, so the Caps picked up a game on the Panthers, and are now only a game behind the Cats. If the Caps can keep playing like they did in the first period tonight (I know, big if), then they'll be back in the Cat's-Bird seat in no time.
One other point: I know that Backstrom was put on IR to make room for Kundratek (who, by the way, played well again tonight, paired with his countryman Hamrlik), but I don't know how they made room for Eakin. I'm guessing it was putting Green on IR, but I haven't heard anything about that.
Also, note that tonight was Vokoun's 7th or 8th consecutive game in goal. I hope he's going to get a breather soon. He might only be with us for this season, but we still want him to be fresh for the playoffs. Plus, you have to figure that Neuvy's getting a bit rusty (not to mention irritated. I certainly would be).