Had the Washington Capitals gone into Tampa Bay with first place in the Southeast Division on the line and lost, critics of the team would have pointed to Bruce Boudreau’s comments as the motivation for a Lightning win. But even with a 21 year old emergency goaltender in the net and Nicklas Backstrom sidelined with a hand injury, Washington rallied to take a two point lead on Tampa Bay in the division.
Prior to Washington’s biggest game of the season, Boudreau called out Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos and Steve Downie for diving in front of referees.
When asked about the rivalry that has built up between the teams this season, Boudreau accused Tampa Bay’s players – specifically naming two – of embellishing calls in an attempt to earn penalty calls.
“With Steve Downie, if I were a referee I would never give a call when he’s out on the ice,” Boudreau said. “Stamkos, he dives every two seconds. Downie, he dives every two seconds, so you see that and you start to get a little hatred on.”
To the blind eye, Boudreau’s comments appear to be perfect bulletin board material for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were looking to take first place back from the Capitals on their home ice. But as Joe Yerdon of ProHockeyTalk.com pointed out, Boudreau’s quotes may have been more about gamesmanship than just firing from the hip.
“Boudreau obviously wants to see a few more calls go his team’s way but lighting a fire under the Lightning and specifically Stamkos might not be the greatest idea,” Yerdon wrote. Fortunately for the Capitals, it worked out in the end.
While Washington continues to see success on defense from their young goaltenders, their stars are finally setting the table over their current five game win streak. Alex Ovechkin assisted the game tying goal and scored in the opening round of the shootout. Alexander Semin was on the receiving end of Ovechkin’s assist, Semin has four points in his last six games and the Capitals have yet to lose a game this season when he finds the back of the net.
Ovechkin and Semin’s performances should not take away from the star of Monday’s game, goaltender Braden Holtby. The 21 year old was an emergency replacement for Michal Neuvirth who was taken out after the first period when a piece of metal from his mask was shot into his eye.
Holtby blocked all 21 of the shots taken by the Lightning over his 45 minutes of time on the ice and came up big in the shootout after a lackluster shootout performance with Washington on January 24 against the New York Rangers.
The Capitals return home to host Edmonton on Wednesday, Carolina on Friday and Chicago on Sunday.