The Washington Capitals picked up a point last night but not the two they wanted after their luck in shootouts finally ran out.
Vaclav Prospal scored in the second round of the sudden death shootout, propelling Tampa Bay to a 4-3 victory over Washington to even the season series between the two Southeast Division opponents at 2-2. Both Caps wins came in shootouts.
But last night, a subpar Alex Ovechkin scored off the first Washington chance in the shootout, and Brad Richard answered with the second Tampa Bay shot. There was no more scoring until Prospel beat Caps goalie Olie Kolzig.
“It was a perfect shot,” Kolzig said. “He just shot it stick side right over my pad, a perfect shot. That’s a good shot. Sometimes you can’t get your blocker over there. He made a nice play.”
Even though he had been a winner in two of these affairs, Kolzig is not necessarily a fan of the shootout.
“I’m not against it. I’m not saying I’m not a big fan of it, [but] I’m a traditionalist,” Kolzig said. “I can take it.”
The Caps had been 3-0 in shootouts this season, beating the Lightning twice and the Atlanta Thrashers once. Ovechkin had a goal in each of the first three and also last night, making him the only player in the league to score in that many extra sessions.
But Ovechkin was not operating at his normal 110 mph last night, something coach Glen Hanlon acknowledged and attributed to the week of pressure in which the Caps rookie played against heralded Pittsburgh rookie Sidney Crosby for the first time.
For instance, for the first time in his 22-game NHL career, Ovechkin was not credited with a single shot on goal, perhaps an oversight because Andrew Cassels scored off a rebound of what appeared to be a shot taken by the rookie in the first period.
“I think it’s been a pretty emotional four or five days. We played him 25 minutes [Tuesday] night, and we turn around and have another game. It was noticeable that he was fatigued but still had the determination to try to score at the end of the game and in overtime,” Hanlon said.
Though the Caps picked up a point in the standings for going to overtime, it can’t be satisfying at all. Washington had a 3-0 lead and let it slip away, and it took another lengthy shooting hiatus. This time Washington went from 8:00 in the second period to the end of overtime — about 37 minutes — with just four shots on goal. Over the same span the Lightning took 26 shots.
Cassels, playing his 1,000th NHL game, put Washington up in the first. Matt Pettinger scored off his first penalty shot to open the second, with Brian Sutherby adding the third Caps score 13 seconds after Pettinger. But that was it. The rest of the night belonged to Tampa Bay, which forced the Caps outside and made life miserable for Kolzig.
“Tonight it was a team that knows how to win. It’s a team that expects to win, and we’ll learn from that. I think the right team got the win,” Hanlon said. “Olie made some great saves in the third to get the point, and we got away from shooting, and that’s not our game, either.”
Notes — The last successful Caps penalty shot was Dec. 11, 2003, when Dainius Zubrus beat Boston’s Andrew Raycroft at MCI Center. …
Defensemen Ivan Majesky and Mathieu Biron were the healthy scratches. Majesky has been alternating with Nolan Yonkman — one plays while the other sits. Biron has played only three times since Oct. 13; last night was the seventh straight game he has missed. …
Zubrus, left wing Jeff Friesen (both groin injuries) and right wing Stephen Peat (broken right hand) were the medical scratches. … The Caps are off today for the holiday, which was celebrated more than a month ago in Canada. … Some strange starting times to keep in mind: The Caps play at the New York Rangers at 8:08 p.m. Saturday, then the Buffalo Sabres come to Washington at 4:08 p.m. Sunday.