By Dory LeBlanc
Tampa Bay made a quick pit stop Thursday night and were defeated by the Capitals 4-3 before heading back out on the road for a three-game trip.
The game started off with a curveball after the NHL officials met with both teams' general managers and coaches after it was determined there was an issue with the ice at the visitor's crease. After careful deliberation and counsel with all parties involved, it was determined the best way to accommodate the situation was to have the teams switch ends after the first stoppage of play after the 10:00 mark of the first period until the ice could be re-evaluated during the first intermission.
You never would have known there was any type of unfavorable ice conditions in Washington's net; the Capitals led the Lightning 3-1 after the first period.
Rookie sensation Tyler Johnson scored his 12th goal (23rd point) of the season 4:08 into the contest putting the Lightning up 1-0, but it wouldn't last for long.
Nearly three minutes later, Alex Ovechkin got a hold of the puck in the neutral zone and took it down the ice towards Anders Lindback, starting in net in place of Ben Bishop who was placed on IR earlier Thursday. As Ovechkin approaced the circle, he fed teammate Eric Fehr who sent the puck past Lindback to knot it up with 12:56 left to play in the opening period.
At 10:37, it appeared as if Washington defensemean Mike Green notched his 100th career goal, but the score was later credited to Mikhail Grabovski to give the Caps the 2-1 lead. Following the goal, the goalies switched nets.
With :12 to go in the opening period, Marcus Johansson put Washington up by two after stuffing the puck under Linback's pads and across the line.
After spending time during the intermission working on the visitor's crease, the officials decided it was best to continue switching ends after 10:00 of play.
They actually waited until the 8:00 mark to switch, and 1:15 later, B.J. Crombeen scored his first goal of the season to make it a one-point game. Crombeen, who is more of a physical player than scorer, gave the Lightning their second goal on a one-timer he shot after beating the Capitals defenders down the ice.
There was no announcement to start the third period on the condition of the ice at the visitor's end and if the teams would continue switching nets halfway through, but as the clock ticked down, it was apparent they were going to let the teams play in the natural ends.
The scoreboard didn't change much through the final period of regulation, although the Lightning's shots on goal total continued to climb.
The Lightning's rookies have been nothing short of fantastic in the absence of Steven Stamkos, and the great plays by the first-years didn't stop with Johnson's goal. With 5:30 left to play in regulation, Ondrej Palat evened the score at 3-3 after redirecting Matt Carle's shot.
Fehr's second goal of the game crushed most hopes of a comeback win, coming with less than a minute to go. Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Cooper opted to pull Lindback in favor of an extra skater, but to no avail, the Bolts couldn't pull out the home victory and fell to the Caps 4-3.
Shots On Goal:
WAS - 20
TB - 36
WAS - (1) None; (2) Backstrom - Hooking; (3) None
TB - (1) Thompson - Tripping, Filppula - Hooking; (2) None; (3) Carle - Roughing
Shootout Tally: N/A
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Eric Fehr (WAS)
2. Ondrej Palat
3. Tyler Johnson
Next up for the Bolts: Tampa Bay will head back on the road for a three-game trip, starting with a meeting in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers Saturday, January 11th. Tune in to sister station 970 WFLA to hear Hall of Famer Phil Esposito and Dave Mishkin's call with coverage beginning at 12:30.