The Caps rode two early power play goals and a hat trick by Troy Brouwer to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night at Verizon Center. Tampa Bay stormed back in the third period to draw within a goal twice. With the goalie on the bench for an extra forward, the Lightening pressed to the very end, scoring with 10 second remaining in the game, and nearly tieing the game as the final buzzer sounded.
Troy Brouwer scored the first hat trick of his NHL career with a goal in each period. His empty net goal with one minute remaining appeared to seal the win and brought a shower of hats onto the ice. But the lightning took advantage of the time it took to clear the hats off the ice to re-group for one last charge. A shot from the point pin-balled through a crowd in front of the net and trickled over the goal line behind Tomas Vokoun to make it 4-3.
It wasn’t always so close. The Lightning were whistled for three penalties in the first five minutes of the game. The Caps made them pay dearly, converting twice on the man advantage. First Alex Ovechkin beat Tampa Bay goal Dwayne Roloson with a wrist shot from the top of the slot, then Brouwer poked one between Roloson’s pads to take a 2-0 lead.
When Brouwer potted his second goal of the night five minutes into the second period, it looked like the Caps were going to make an easy night of it. Tomas Vokoun has not allowed more than two goals in his last five starts at Verizon Center, and Tampa Bay looked tired from playing the night before.
But the Lightning heated up and pressed the issue. The Caps sat back and would only connect for 12 shots on goal after the first period. Martin St. Louis pick-pocketed Mike Knuble near the Caps’ net and found Tom Pyatt alone in front for an easy goal with three minutes remaining in the second period to make it 3-1.
Vokoun made some key saves in the third to preserve the margin but Tampa Bay had momentum. The power play pendulum was swinging their way. Steven Stamkos scored a PPG from 20 feet with four minutes remaining in the game to make it 3-2.
Bu Brouwer had the hot hands and hit the empty net from center ice to complete the hat trick. “I’m pretty excited, said Brouwer after the game. “I was close once before. It’s a special feat, but at the same time I’m excited about the win tonight.”
Any win counts for two points in the standings. A win over a division rival keeps you ahead in the standings. The Caps are stringing together a series of (home) wins to climb their way up the Eastern Conference standings for a good post season spot.
- Bizarre officiating. The game was marked by 13 penalties including delay of game and too-many-men on the ice. It was as if the refs were looking for infractions. But when Steven Stamkos jumped Brouwer from behind after a hard hit on a Lightning teammate, Stamkos was not called for instigation. He and Brouwer were given offsetting roughing calls and the Bolts went on a power play.
- Tomas Vokoun went behind the cage to retrieve a loose puck, but the puck took a bounce and went right to an open Bolt in front of the net. He whiffed the shot and Vokoun was able to dart back to the crease. Never a dull moment when he leaves the blue paint.
- It’s a game of inches. It was a beautiful thing to see Jason Chimera come from behind and overtake two Lightning defenders in a foot race for the puck. Chimera won the race, negated an icing call, and kept Tampa Bay bottled up in their own zone.