Vincent Lacavalier, Teddy Purcell

Vincent Lecavalier scores twice, Lightning stun Capitals in OT to take 2-0 series lead

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Guy Boucher might struggle to convince his team that they’re the underdogs after tonight.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals on the strength of their red-hot veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, a few lucky bounces and outstanding play by their two long-time stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2 (OT); Lightning lead series 2-0

For the first two periods, the Capitals out-shot the Lightning but Tampa Bay still managed to build leads. Despite a 11-6 shot margin in the first period, Lecavalier scored on a Lightning power play to give his team a 1-0 lead.

The Caps were most dominant in the second period, hammering 16 shots on Roloson and allowing only three shots on their own goalie Michal Neuvirth. Roloson continued his recent hot streak by only allowing a Brooks Laich rebound tally.

The Lightning woke up in the third period, out-shooting the Capitals 11-5 as a St. Louis pass bounced off Mike Green’s skate and into Washington’s net for a 2-1 Tampa lead. It really wasn’t a great night for Green. Along with that bad moment, Green took two penalties. One was bad luck (he received a penalty for roughing even though it was a clean hit) and one was bad decision-making (an ill-advised elbow on Steven Stamkos).

It wasn’t a great day for officials, either, as they seemingly nailed both teams with dubious penalties while also letting some rather egregious infractions go unnoticed. Jeremy Roenick provided an amusing rant on the subject.

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Some felt that this the Capitals would wave a white flag, but that ignores the consistent stream of magic featured in the 2011 playoffs.

More highs and lows for the Caps

Alex Ovechkin answered the call, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs with Washington’s net empty. Even if his team ends up on the wrong end of another series upset, Ovechkin has been a force once again in the playoffs.

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It seemed like this team’s series of baggage-shedding moments would continue as the Capitals rode a surge of momentum in overtime, but it was ultimately not to be.

Scott Hannan and his teammates were caught on a bad change on that Lecavalier game winner. Randy Jones made a heads-up breakout pass to Teddy Purcell, who sent a nice pass to a wide open Lecavalier, who took the time to settle down the puck and put it over a sprawling Neuvirth.

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To some, this was an unlucky break, but the Capitals dodged a bullet shortly before that when Green was caught deep in Tampa Bay’s zone but Steve Downie couldn’t finish a 2-on-1 chance. Washington dominated much of the game, but mistakes and bad bounces did them in once again.

The outlook for both teams

The Lightning are on an amazing run right now, winning five games in a row and five out of their six road games in the playoffs so far. Maybe it hasn’t always been pretty, but their big-name scorers came up big. Lecavalier was huge in Game 2, Stamkos scored a timely winner in Game 1 and St. Louis has been outstanding game-in and game-out.

Of course, they wouldn’t have gotten here without Roloson’s all-world, age-defying work in net. He leads all starting goalies with six wins and an outstanding 94.7 save percentage. Last season, Jaroslav Halak solved both the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Will Rolo duplicate those results?

Meanwhile, the Capitals will face one of their biggest tests yet. It seems like they are doing what they can to break through their playoff struggles, but if this team buckles now, then every critic will be emboldened. There might be some who think that Bruce Boudreau should bench Neuvirth for Semyon Varlamov, but the biggest worries revolve around what they’re going to do about the opposing goalie.

On the bright side, Washington came back to win a series after following behind 2-0 against the New York Rangers in 2009, so they at least now it isn’t over yet.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?