by Jon Jordan on 03/08/11 at 02:19 PM ET
A few quick thoughts today on last night’s huge Southeast Division matchup here in Tampa that ended with a 2-1 shootout win for the Washington Capitals.
First, it’s pretty clear now that Vincent Lecavalier’s disallowed goal early in the third period should have counted. In the video below, Martin St. Louis doesn’t appear to ever make direct contact with Washington goaltender Braden Holtby and was probably tripped to begin with:
But let’s get past that because it was a split-second decision on the part of referee Tom Kowal and mistakes happen. The Lightning would be better served bemoaning their failure to extend the lead to 2-0 at any other time in the game because they certainly had the chances to do so and there’s no sense complaining about something completely out of their control, cheated as they may feel.
Instead, for the second time in about a month, we saw signs of the Lightning losing their cool over a call that didn’t go their way.
In early February, we saw the unraveling of goalie Dwayne Roloson after he was clipped in the crease by Buffalo’s Drew Stafford and the collision led to that game’s tying goal. (The play itself was called correctly, as revealed on video later, as Tampa Bay defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron had tripped up Stafford – quite similar to the play last night, actually.) The wheels fell off thereafter, en route to a 7-4 Sabres victory.
Roloson himself kept it together last night. In fact, he was sensational, especially in overtime, where he stopped ten Washington shots.
But elsewhere, the miffed Lightning looked rattled and went into conservative mode, managing just four shots in the third period, while allowing the Caps only three and were dominated in overtime, failing to keep the Washington attack at bay and turning the puck over repeatedly, only to be bailed out by Roloson.
They needed the point last night, most definitely, so in many ways, I can understand the importance of assuring that. But, on the other hand, they had two in the bag if the disallowed goal with which they were so displeased had been allowed and quite possibly still would have, had they remained a bit more focused and sustained offensive pressure.
Washington did gain momentum from the call in question and, of course, Alex Semin took advantage to knot things late in the third.
But that disallowed goal call took the Lightning off their game, in my opinion and that is not this team’s calling card.
We saw frustration, understandably so from a club in the midst of its worst stretch (0-3-1) all year in Lecavalier slamming his stick to the ice immediately after the no-goal call.
We saw it, even, from a coach who has gone well out of his way to avoid anything of the sort throughout the season. If the Bolts don’t get their desired result, it’s on them. Period. No excuses. This, although obviously paraphrased, has become a go-to quote from Coach Boucher.
But he too was flustered last night and now must rely on another staple of his coaching philosophy – to put last night immediately behind him (and the team) and focus on Wednesday night’s opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Surely, he will and, if nothing else, this team’s focus has been unquestionable for most of the year (these isolated blips on the radar, naturally, put aside).
But with the 16-game stretch run at hand, now knocked into second by the streaking Capitals, home ice still anything but a certainty and the playoffs coming in very short order, that focus has to remain constant, no matter the situation.
In a playoff-type game last night, a bad break against the Bolts made all the difference in the world.
In an actual playoff game, they simply can’t allow that to happen.
Elsewhere in the Southeast tonight, the Blackhawks pay a visit to the Florida Panthers before tomorrow night’s meeting with the Lightning and the Bolts could use a little roughing up of Chicago from their cross-state foes.
Florida, recently remolded once again at the trade deadline, took Washington to overtime on Sunday and did the same in Atlanta the night before but has dropped five straight overall and is just 5-11-7 in their last 23 contests.
Chicago has won eight in a row and nine of their last ten and have pulled into fourth place in the Western Conference after some ups and downs of their own earlier this season.
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