The Caps woke last night to the sound of thunder — then, it seemed, sat and wondered. Fans attending Friday’s game at the Booth received a pair of what were optimistically called “Thundersticks” emblazoned with the “Rock the Red” slogan, but their usage never reached critical mass and neither did the Caps performance in a 4-2 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning in game 1 of playoff round 2.
This Puck Buddy was at the game with a hot hockey pal, who, though a lifelong Flyer fan, knows the nuances of the game better than moi, has the NHL Season pass on cable and whose prized possessions include a photo with Bernie Parent on the Flyers team plane during the Broad Street Bully era. I’ll call her “FlyGirl.” A onetime Caps season ticket holder, she worked the internet to get us tickets, and has a knowledge of arcane referee and linesman hand signals deep enough to make you think Marcel Marceau once played for the Quebec Nordiques, so I’ll give her a pass on her allegiance to her hometown team.
The Caps had a 6-day layoff after winning their first round handily, but that may have spawned a bit of rust — I think the last time they had even close to this much time off between games they fell to the Rangers 6-0 in February.
The Lightning scored 2 minutes in on an ugly scramble in front of the net that ultimately saw Mike Green slide between the pipes, never a good sign. Meanwhile, the snoozing goal judge never turned on the red light, which apparently meant he either took Sting’s advice in “Roxanne” or was moonlighting from a gig as an air traffic controller. Nonetheless, a “1″ appeared in the Bolts’ column on the scoreboard about 10 seconds later.
Caps got it back a couple minutes later when Tampa turned the puck over in their end, which was gobbled up by Semin, who fired a shot that spurted through Roloson’s 5-hole and dribbled across the crease.
A tense moment for the Fly Girl came a few minutes later when the Bolts’ Simon Gagne crumpled after a check by Hannan in the Caps end, hit his head on the ice and didn’t get up. Gagne spent 10 years and scored 259 goals with Philadelphia before being traded last year, and managed 40 points with Tampa this year. Gagne, who has a history of head injuries, eventually eschewed the stretcher and left the rink with assistance, but between the blow to the head and an apparent favoring of his leg, he’s clearly day to day at best.
The Caps lit the lamp at the 13 minute mark, but the boys in Toronto went to the videotape, and it was ruled that Brooks Laich kicked the puck in on a rebound to Roloson’s glove side. Didn’t get a good angle on the replay on the Jumbotron, but the Caps didn’t put up too much of a fuss. It did, however, fuel a growing animosity in the crowd toward the officiating crew.
Caps scored early in the second on a nice tic-tac-toe from Johansson- Chimera – Fehr off a faceoff, but the elderly Roloson, who looked beatable earlier, found a fountain of youth and started making some stops, including on one drive from Ovie. Roloson also got some help from the goalposts on a subsequent Caps rush.
There’s been some “hot goaltender” buzz around Roloson, who’s had his moments in a long NHL career, but keep in mind this elder statesman is also a journeyman now on his eighth team and is one degree of separation, through the provocatively named Randy Cunnyworth on Buffalo in 1998, with the great Gilles Meloche, who tended the twine thanklessly but masterfully for the likes of the California Golden Seals and the Cleveland Barons almost 40 years ago.
Tampa tied it up at the 16-minute mark, and then Steven Stamkos, not to be confused with John Stamos, knocked in a death-blow rebound with 30 seconds left that deflated the crowd and the Caps faster than a cigarette burn on one of those blow-up Thundersticks. Caps took several penalties in the second, and the Verizon Center crowd again voiced their displeasure with the officiating crew.
Not much shaking in the 3rd period, other than the Caps being repeatedly called for offsides, generating more crowd hatred of the officials, and a couple more unrealized power plays — they went 0-5 on the night. Game two is Sunday at 7, Caps need to bring their A game, this Tampa team has some first-rate players — Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavilier — these guys are pros and no pushovers.
With a reality-check 4-2 loss in the books, the highlight for me turned out to be hitting PS7 after the game on FlyGirl’s suggestion for tuna sliders and a couple of much-needed and well-made cocktails. As we left, we saw a flaccid Thunderstick discarded on the sidewalk at 9th and G. There’s a metaphor in there for game 1 somewhere.