By falling to the Tampa Bay Lightening on Monday night, the Capitals blew a golden opportunity to gain separation from the Buffalo Sabres. Trailing late in the third period, they managed to tie the game but, once again, could not hold up down the stretch.
After a scoreless first period, Alexander Semin would tally at 12:47 of the second to give the Caps the lead (20, assist: Mathieu Perreault). Semin, whose game appears to be taking a turn for better at the right time, would finish the game with four shots, a goal, an assist, and several quality scoring chances. Tampa Bay, playing the role of spoiler, would not stay dormant for long. At 17:20, the Bolts’ Teddy Purcell would beat Michal Neuvirth on a power play to tie the game at one (21, assists: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis). Just twenty-five seconds later, Victor Hedman whistled a shot into the net to give Tampa Bay the lead (5, assists: Nate Thompson, Tom Pyatt).
The game yielded no further scoring until late in the third period, when there was a flurry of it. Jason Chimera, continuing his best season yet, tapped in an Alexander Semin rebound at 16:43 to tie up the game. His heroics, though, would prove to be in vein as Steven Stamkos struck twice in the last two minutes (57, 58, assists: Brett Clark, Brian Lee, Nate Thompson, Eric Brewer) to give the Lightening the 4-2 win.
What was missing from the Caps’ performance? The answer, readers, is desire. For example, if Dennis Wideman truly wanted to outmuscle Steven Stamkos in front of the net, he could. But, as plain to see, Stamkos was able to wriggle out of otherwise tight coverage and score the game winning goal. Wideman fired the puck against the boards in frustration, a gesture that was surely representative of the entire team’s mindset. Not that it’s particularly my place to say, but Frustration is not inherently a bad thing, it lets us know when things are wrong and that things must change. Frustration, however, can only take us so far. The change that frustration demands can only be accomplished when we want it. And as it stands now, I don’t think the Capitals do.