Stamkos signs autographs on the red carpet pregame. Also: WTF? (Photo credit: Scott Audette)
The Washington Capitals began the final week of their (regular) season with a road game with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That team who swept the Caps out of the playoffs last year, looked like that same team from last May.
Alex Semin missed an empty net, but scored on a lovely one-timer just seconds later. Teddy Purcell tied it up with a powerplay tally, and then Tom Pyatt deflected a Hedman shot in Neuvy’s net just half a minute later. Jason Chimera crashed the net and tied it up with three minutes left, but Steven Stamkos gave the Bolts the lead again with 63 seconds left. Then Stamkos got the empty netter and that was that. Bolts beat Caps 4-2.
“Playoff hockey” doesn’t mean giving up two goals in 30 seconds. Firing under 30 shots when your team’s postseason life depends on it isn’t befitting a cup-contending team (not that this is one of those).
For too long the Capitals didn’t show a fraction of the hunger that this game– and this league– requires. Against a predictable trap team, they were sloppy in neutral ice. Against a wobbly goalie they were net-crashing-averse. Against a daunting challenge, they were insufficient.
With this loss, the Caps can probably kiss the division title goodbye. Instead of Thursday’s home game against Florida being a chance to steal the crown and jump up in the seeding, it’s a chance to save face.
No more schlubs after tonight. It’s all playoff teams from here on out. Time to show some heart.
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