WASHINGTON – Packing up after a perfect debut for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dwayne Roloson slid his orange-and-blue goalie mask with the insignia of his former club, the New York Islanders, into a black bag.
The 41-year-old Roloson’s gear was old Tuesday night. His play was good as new.
Three days after being acquired from the Islanders, Roloson made 34 saves to stifle Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals, and Martin St. Louis scored 2:54 into overtime, leading Tampa Bay to a 1-0 victory over Washington that broke the teams’ tie for the Southeast Division lead.
“I’m happy for him, because when you start well, it makes it a lot easier after,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “You put pressure on yourself because you want your teammates to like you, and you want people to see what you can do. So he’s done it today. That’s a great relief for him.”
St. Louis poked a rebound past Semyon Varlamov to end Washington’s three-game winning streak.
The Capitals hadn’t lost a 1-0 game since March 2, 2004, against Florida—before Ovechkin entered the NHL—and this was the first 1-0 overtime loss in franchise history.
No one on the ice Tuesday took more shots than Ovechkin’s eight, and Roloson stopped them all.
“He made unbelievable saves a couple times,” said Ovechkin, who has only four goals in his past 23 games.
The Lightning have won nine of 11 and moved into a tie with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh atop the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay plays at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and Boucher had said he would wait until after Tuesday’s game to pick his starting goalie for that game.
Not too tough a call, turned out, thanks to Roloson’s performance.
“I think I’ll decide right now, how’s that?” Boucher said with a little laugh. “Yeah, so he’s in nets tomorrow.”
Roloson is the oldest goalie in the NHL—Varlamov, in contrast, is 22—but he played brilliantly, stopping 21 shots in the second period alone.
It was quite a change in circumstances for Roloson, considering that the Islanders rank 29th in the 30-team NHL.
“Playoff atmosphere, with the crowd, with the teams. A lot of fun to play, that’s for sure,” Roloson said. “It’s always exciting when you’re playing for a team that is in first place.”
For Varlamov, it was a continuation of his recent run of strong play. He went into Tuesday with a 3-0 record and 1.00 goals-against average in his past three starts and earned honours Monday as the NHL’s first star of the week.
He finished with 37 saves against the Lightning.
“Both goalies played really good,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “If there was average goaltending, it would’ve been a 4-3 game.”
Before the game, there was a celebration of Washington’s 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh in the Winter Classic outdoors on New Year’s Day—and even a plug from the public-address announcer for Wednesday’s finale of the four-part HBO behind-the-scenes series tied to that game. Saturday’s prime-time showcase was the most-watched regular-season NHL game since 1975.
So for the Capitals, Tuesday’s game represented a return to normalcy: indoors, at home—and no more cameras following their every move.
Then again, this matchup was nothing like two previous games this season between Washington and Tampa Bay. The Capitals outscored the Lightning by a combined 12-3 in those meetings, both in November at Washington.
“That’s what I told the players: We wanted a 0-0 game. I didn’t necessarily expect a 0-0 game, but we wanted a 0-0 mentality game, and that’s what we got,” Boucher said. “It’s rewarding, because we didn’t create 100 turnovers like the last two times.”
And, of course, Roloson wasn’t around to help the Lightning back then.
“We made that trade because we believed that he’s going to improve our team,” Boucher said, “and certainly tonight he did everything he could do to make that happen.”
NOTES: Capitals C Matt Hendricks kept swinging away after winding up with his red jersey pulled over his helmet—making him look as if he was wearing a Headless Horseman costume—while trading punches with Lightning RW Steve Downie in the second period. Both got five-minute penalties for fighting, then yelled at each other from the boxes. … Capitals D Tom Poti returned after missing three games with an undisclosed injury.