Lightning 1, Caps 0  (OT)

Getting kind of hot under the collar in here, I think. The Caps have won the Southeast Division by 38 points and 11 points the last two years. They took the title on the final day of the season the year before that. None of that is doing them much good this year as Tampa Bay seems intent on making this a year-long race.

Old nemesis Martin St. Louis did it again to Washington with an overtime goal at Verizon Center on Tuesday night for a 1-0 overtime victory. Check out our game story here. Not much in the way of hard details, but it was about as fun a 0-0 regulation game as you’ll see with action up-and-down the ice.

I look forward to the next meeting between Matt Hendricks and Steve Downie after they spent the better part of a minute jawing at each other in the penalty box following their fighting majors in the second period. The two teams play again in Tampa Bay on Jan. 12.

On a positive note, can we at least give more credit to the penalty kill? Against one of the league’s best units the Caps posted another 3-for-3 night. They were 4-for-4 vs. the Penguins on Saturday. They were 5-for-5 against Montreal last week and 4-for-4 vs. Carolina and 5-for-5 against the Penguins before that. So, um, yeah…pretty good. Since Nov. 26 Washington has killed 60 of 68 penalties for an 88.2% rate.

“I don’t know if we gave them a chance,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’ve been doing that for a couple weeks now. It’s why I think our record is [5]-0-2 in the last [seven] games. It certainly isn’t because of the power play.”

Does he mean the group that has three goals in 39 attempts over the last 10 games? Yeah, they stink right now. No other way to say it. Until the Caps get close to the team that scored over 25% of the time on the PP last season and led the entire NHL they will find themselves in these 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 games over and over. And these things aren’t easy to win.

Kind of a rough return for defenseman Tom Poti, out since Dec. 23 against Pittsburgh after taking a blow to the head. He was on for the game-winning goal and took a delay-of-game penalty, too. Played 20:53 so he wasn’t limited much at all and – to be fair – he had two shots on goal and blocked two shots. Good to have him back as the blueline is at full strength for the first time in a while.

Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov entered the day fifth overall in goals-against average and ninth in save percentage. Now,’s official rankings say he doesn’t yet qualify for the league leaders after playing just 14 games. But Varlamov had another strong night with 37 saves against Tampa bay and he now sits at .928 and 2.09. Michal Neuvirth better be good the next time he gets the net because Varly is bringing it right now. Calm and composed and looking like a confident No. 1. Just don’t get hurt again.   

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