Joe Beninati: Stop watch

Joe Beninati: Stop watch
January 5, 2011, 4:06 am
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011 11:02 p.m.


By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

I must admit, the old goalie in me had fun watching the work of Semyon Varlamov and Dwayne Roloson tonight. Both men were very much on their best behavior for over 62 minutes before one of those dreaded long-side rebounds cost the Capitals in overtime.

For starters, the Caps start stunk. They didnt carry-over much in the way of energy from Heinz Field. Varlamov kept them in the game in the first seven minutes with a couple of sharp stops.

I am sure they were given a stern talking-to after that because from there on I thought they competed much better and, as the 0-0 score through regulation would indicate, played the Lightning pretty much even.

The difference turned out to be Roloson, the 41-year old netminder brought in over the weekend by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. I have known Roli a long time (even shared a broadcast booth with him a while back) and when he is on his game he can get to that unconscious level where nothing will beat him.
The Capitals threw a lot of shots his way (a whopping 21 in the second), but there were too many drive-bys instead of crashing the crease hard.

When the Caps go to the net hard they tend to be at their offensive best. When they force too many plays off the rush, thats when they get into trouble.

The team penalty killing performance was very good again tonight. Washington has now nullified 23 straight shorthanded situations and 29 of the last 30. Thats exceptional! Varlamov was instrumental in that effort tonight, as he made several terrific stops at the top of his crease to keep sharpshooters like Vinny LeCavalier and Steven Stamkos quiet.

The D pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner gets better with each passing night. I thought Alzner was excellent in this contest; his timing on open-ice pokechecks to thwart Stamkos caught my eye.

Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin have been known to make life miserable on the Lightning. They did not convert any of their combined 14 shots tonight.

This was the first time the Caps played to a 0-0 tie through 60 minutes since April of 2002, when they eventually played a scoreless tie against Ottawa.

There would be a winner tonight, and that victory would belong to Tampa Bay.

Martin St. Louis demonstrated great hustle on the game-deciding play in overtime. He had to hurry to make it out of the offensive zone to avoid an offside call and then, instead of just going to the bench for a line change, he busted his butt to drive to the net to clean up a rebound off the initial shot from LeCavalier.

These two teams will rematch in the Sunshine state next Wednesday. This triumph gives the Lightning first place in the division, and it promises to be quite a race in the weeks and months ahead.