The Jiri Novotny Era Begins

Well that was interesting. Whichever member of the Panthers coaching staff was blackmailing the officiating crew with pictures of one of them in a compromising position with a farm animal must have accidentally left the pictures behind at Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Because blackmail is more or less the only explanation I can come up with for the bizarre ending that befell tonight's game between the Caps and the Tampa Bay Lightning. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that. First, the Caps find themselves witha 5-on-3 in the final minutes, only to pull the goalie for the uber-rare three-man advantage. Then, they somehow manage to allow one of their skaters to get double teamed along the boards anyway and turn the puck over for an easy empty net goal. Then the trail official makes a game-saving stop in place of Brent Johnson.

And then there was the ten-round shootout. Not really the refs fault, but bizarre none the less.

The trade deadline may have passed on Tuesday, but there is still one important trade the Caps need to make. The sooner they send John Erskine to the Hershey Bears in exchange for Mike Green, the better. Erskine was absolutely awful tonight, getting burned in the final minute of the second period for the Lightning's second goal and then taking a stupid (although eventually, fortunately, harmless) delay of game penalty in the third. It was just another of a string of poor performances by Erskine.

Speaking of poor performances from defensemen, Brian Pothier has also looked pretty bad of late. Against the speedy Lightning, he looked very much as though he were skating in some sort of molasses. Or perhaps someone replaced his skate blades with lead.

But let's not dwell on the negatives. Overall, this was another good performance from the Caps. Save for the last few minutes of the game, they just couldn't get the bounces going their way. I eventually lost count of the number of great scoring chances that where whiffed, muffed and/or shanked. The most blatant of which was newcomer Jiri Novotny in the third, sitting at the top of the crease when the puck came to his stick with a yawning net staring him in the face. But maybe I just noticed that one more because it was exactly what Dainius Zubrus would have done.

That said, I'd like to commend Lightning goaltender Daniel Tarnqvist. When the Caps were actually managing to connect on their shots, he came up huge. He made several huge saves right before Vinny Lecavalier's shorthanded goal that probably won the game for Tampa Bay.

Next up: The New York Ex-Capitals. Get ready to roll out the red carpet for Chris Simon, Brendan Witt and Richard Zednik.

Recaps From People That Matter:
-A View From the Cheap Seats
-Capitals Corner
-Capital Fanatic
-Japers' Rink
-The Peerless Prognosticator

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