Caps, 'Bolts will come down to goaltending

STEVE MacFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:49 PM ET

The words goaltending battle don't exactly spring to mind when talking about a playoff series featuring Southeast Division rivals Washington and Tampa Bay.

But even with names like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Michal Neuvirth have been their teams' best players so far.

That didn't change in Game 1 of their second-round series, which started with a 4-2 Lightning victory Friday night.

Coming into the contest with the NHL's best playoff save percentage of .949, Roloson battled to make that opening-game upset take place despite facing plenty of firepower from the Caps.

The guy reminds me of Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas — not the most technical goalie but a real battler.

Roloson was flipping and flopping all over the place, frustrating the Caps stars when it mattered most.

Neuvirth's .946 save percentage — both men had sub-2.00 goals-against averages, too — was good for second best coming in, and he settled for second best on the night, too, giving up three.

ALONG THE BOARDS

Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk is deadly. He did all the work on Nicklas Lidstrom's series-opening goal, mesmerizing Sharks along the boards before making the perfect pass ... Jimmy Howard doesn't get a lot of praise outside Detroit, but the Wings goalie showed his stuff on an in-tight glove snag on Joe Pavelski in the second period ... Pavelski got him back by spraying some ice chips in his face later, with both taking minor penalties, Howard slugging him in response to the shower ... Scary to see Bolts star Simon Gagne, who has a history of concussions, flat on his back and looking sleepy after being smacked into the boards by Caps D Scott Hannan. Gagne's head whipped off the ice after first contact ... Bolts D Pavel Kubina took a shot in the back of the head and tried to come back in the third but didn't play a shift and left the bench. Smart move.

OFF THE GLASS

Michael Cammalleri, Claude Giroux, Corey Perry, Danny Briere. All those are names you might expect to find atop the scoring leaders early in the second round. Steve Downie, not so much. But the Lightning spitfire added a couple of points to his stats Friday night and sits tied for second in the league with nine ... Not sure what was more impressive, Dominic Moore's speed to get to the loose puck and pot an empty-netter, or the fact Alex Ovechkin almost got there first on the backcheck ... Best line of the week from Don Cherry came when he was off-camera after the Canucks game Thursday as the three stars were posted and Ron MacLean was commentating. He got to third star Roberto Luongo, who faced just 20 shots from the Preds, and Cherry piped in "for staying awake" with perfect comic timing.

THIS 'N’ THAT

When Lightning W Steve Downie and Capitals W Alexander Semin exchanged crosschecks on the ice in the corner right in front of a TSN camera, all I could think about was the way Semin throws down, and how awesome it would be to see him play the bongos with Downie — http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=81456 ...Canadiens W Michael Cammalleri's first post-playoff tweet was a picture of a baked dessert with two scoops of ice cream on top. You know it's the off-season when. But he says it was teammate Mathieu Darche's meal ... Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak is a Caps fan and was in attendance Friday night. I had to buy a vowel to figure out how to spell his name ... I get why Ryan Whitney tipped his hat to former Ducks teammate Corey Perry for the Hart Trophy, but not a single member of the panel dissented? Where's the fun in that? Of course, I voted Perry as well.

SWEET TWEETS

- "Raise your hand if you had Steve Downie as team's leading scorer in playoffs through 7-plus games? Nobody, yeah, me neither" — Erik Erlendsson, Tampa Tribune

- "Golf game wasn't very good today.. Really wanted to smash my putter over the cart but kept myself cool. #stupidassgame" — Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Jones, obviously not in the playoffs

- "Going out for dinner tonight with the wife. she dyed her hair so its like I'm dating a different chick. I'm kind of nervous. #winning" — Toronto Maple Leafs' Colby Armstrong

- "Mike Babcock said this morning the Wings shouldn't waste their energy in scrums. Fourth shift. They are in a scrum. #SJSDet" — Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun

- "Bertuzzi looked like his hands might have been forcibly detached; think he'll be back soon anyway" — Ray Ratto, CSN, on Todd Bertuzzi rushing to the bench thinking he might have been cut by a skate

- "Getting ready for my first quiz on TSN can't believe one of the questions is each guys thoughts on Kate Middletons dress in the royal wedding" — Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Whitney with the TSN panel

THE LAST WORD

The Twitterverse is officially out of control. Do we really need two dozen people offering play by play on NHL games most people who follow you are watching anyway? Let's get a watchdog to make it value-added only. If you're not attempting to be funny, sarcastic, critical or insightful, keep working on your story.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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