Well, the Caps certainly got the Oates era started with a whimper tonight. They started pretty strong, jumping all over Tampa, and getting several chances and power plays early. Unfortunately, they didn't capitalize on any of those opportunities, and surrendered a goal on a point shot (from an amazingly low position for coming from the point) six and a half minutes in.
They equalized two minutes later, with the second power play unit on the ice. Poti threw the puck at the net, which was stopped by Lindback, but Wolski and Ward were both there, with Ward putting it into the net.
Forty seconds later the Lightning retook the lead when a near-miss by Pouliot led to a complete defensive breakdown and mad scramble. But Lecavalier found the puck in the high slot before the Caps got even slightly back into position, and put it over the sprawled Holtby and Hillen (trying to play goaltender, and possibly getting in Holtby's way in the process). That was just an ugly sequence.
That rounded out the scoring for the first period. Even down a goal, the Caps were looking pretty good with a seventeen:eight advantage in shots. They had a power play goal, and hadn't allowed a shot in the one power play they'd given up.
Two minutes into the second, things looked even a little better, as Ward equalized again, this time on a delayed penalty. Again, he did it by fighting to a rebound right in front of the net, and sliding it under Lindback.
But that was basically the high point for the Caps. St Louis put it through Holtby's legs on the power play three minutes later, and the play favored Tampa pretty strongly for the rest of the game.
The one glimmer came towards the end of the second, when a sloppy turnover playing four-on-four by the Lightning gave Ribeiro the puck. His shot gave Lindback no trouble, but the rebound went right into the middle of the slot, and Wolski pounced on it to put it in the net.
But that was it for the Caps. The bolts scored three more times in the third, with the Caps having no answer. They also spent way too much time in the penalty box (including a minute of five-on-three that led to the first of those three goals), cutting into their chances during that third period.
I'd rather hoped that the Caps would be helped by OV and Backstrom having played together in the KHL during the lock-out, but their line really didn't manage much. In fact, each of them took a penalty (ok, OV's was a bogus embellishment call), so one might even argue they were a net negative on the game.
Some of the new guys were looking pretty good, though. Ribeiro and Wolski, in particular. And Ward was relied upon more than Hunter ever did, with excellent results. Poti shocked pretty much everyone just by being able to play. As noted, he did have the assist on Ward's first goal, but it was his misplay that gave Tampa a three-on-one that led to their fifth goal.
Hillen did ok in his debut, but definitely nothing there that makes me anything more than leery if the team ends up leaning on him more later in the season. Beags was ok as well in his continuing role as "where scoring chances go to die".
Perreault certainly had an off game. He wasn't covering anyone when the Lightning scored their first goal (unanswered is why he was out there against the Stamkos/St Louis line), and also took the first of the two penalties leading to the five-on-three. And that was in less than four minutes of ice time. Ouch.
MarJo was largely invisible in the game (and looking rather different with the moustache).
Carlson and Alzner continued to look quite solid, with Alzner even and Carlson +2. Hamr also looked decent, if slow.
Holtby did not look good, although not so bad that I'm worried already. He did miss a couple that I expect him to stop; I'm hoping it was just nerves.
Anyway, there definitely looks to be quite a ways to go for the team. Hopefully, with some more practices, they can get things together a bit more solidly. Having Laich back will definitely help; I'd really like to see him reunited with Ward and Chimmer on the third line.
This definitely wasn't what we were hoping to see, but it wasn't a disaster either (for an example of that, see what happened to Detroit). The season might be a lot shorter than usual, but there's still a long time remaining.