Last night's Caps/Bolts tilt got off to a much worse start than the prior night's game. While the Caps actually came out very strong, an interference call on Oleksy, a minute and three-quarters into the game, threw a monkey wrench into things. There was known to be a lot of talent on the Tampa power play, and the Caps PK is considerably less than stellar, but it was still a bit of a surprise when it took only seven seconds for Tampa to take the lead. Especially since the goal was a deflection by Lecavalier rather than a one-timer from Stamkos (though the primary assist coming from St Louis was no surprise).
Actually, an aside here. The announcers (Locker, especially) seemed surprised by Tampa showing a 1-3-1 there. Am I misremembering that being de rigeur for Tampa? Maybe I am. In any event, although it wasn't there long, that's certainly what they were doing.
The Caps actually did well the rest of the period, although nothing that showed up on the score sheet. But it was good to see them controlling play regularly.
Three minutes into the second, we got another look at the improved OV, as he tipped in Hillen's point shot. After his first of those, a week or so back, Oates had commented that they were working on that, with the goal of adding five goals a season that way. Well, they're up to two. Let's hope that continues; anything adding new wrinkles to OV's play goes a long way towards making him less predictable. And let's face it, it's been a long time since the Caps got many goals that way (not since Druce's playoff run, that I can recall).
While the Caps mostly continued to play well, Hillen played a one-on-one pretty poorly, turning it into a clean breakaway where Killorn wristed the puck five-hole to put Tampa ahead again.
But the rest of the period was solidly in the Caps favor, with them getting rewarded six minutes later, when Carlson carried into the zone and blasted a slapshot into the top-right corner of the net. Then, a few minutes later, Ward got the puck from Perreault on his off-side, and carried down. Recognizing that the defender was a forward, he carried through him, and snuck the puck into the near side before Bishop could get over to cover the post.
The Caps continued the strong play into the third (well, mostly, at least; due to some DVR weirdness, I missed five to eight minutes towards the end), but without any scoring until the end. In fact, I came back from that weirdness just in time to catch OV skating the puck almost all the way into the empty net to provide the final margin of victory. That was also a bit strange, though, as one of the Bolts attempted to put his stick over the boards to mess with OV as he was passing by. Thankfully, the refs caught it, even though OV was able to skate through it. I'm not sure what the rule is on that (other than it certainly being illegal), but I think the best way to keep it from happening again (and it has certainly happened at least one other time recently) is to make it a mandatory one-game suspension. Any in-game penalty would be easy to ignore, and that wouldn't. I guess we'll see if it becomes more of a general problem.
One thing encouraging about the weekend: the Caps managed double-digit shots in five of the six periods. Let's hope that keeps up. They also had the edge in shots in both games. Again, "more, please". And how sad is it that last night's was the first empty-net goal of the season.
But neither Florida team is all that good (though, of the two, Tampa is far better, judging by goal differential), so it would be easy to read too much into that. With a whole heaping helping of interdivisional games coming up, we'll get a better handle on whether the Caps deserve their current position (not just on top of the Southeast, but also being tied with the two New York teams for sixth in the conference).
Next up, along those lines, is Montreal on Tuesday. Let's hope Erat and/or Laich is back, and the Caps can continue their winning ways.