WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning shoots the puck against the Washington Capitals during Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinal during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at the Verizon Center on April 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capital 4-2 in Game 1 of the NHL's Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The good news is that the team won the game. At times, that didn't look like it would be a sure thing. This was not one of the prettier games you'll ever see.
Gagne was hit by Scott Hannan and went down awkwardly, and most people agree that it was a clean hit. A stretcher had been brought out for him in case he reinjured his neck, but he was able to make it off the ice on his own two feet with help. As he was leaving, Hannan came over to give him a stick-tap, to make sure that he was alright, which was definitely a class move by him.
Kubina was hit by Jason Chimera toward the end of the second period. He left for a bit, but came back and tried to skate. In the end, however, he wasn't able to and left the game for good. Both were sent back to the team's hotel before the game was over and will be re-evaluated today.
Sean Bergenheim opened up the scoring for the game, picking up where he'd left off from the previous series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos also scored. Stamkos has finally gotten that scoring drought monkey off of his back. And Dominic Moore finished things up for the Lightning by getting the empty net goal at the end of the game, and he had a great game as well.
Downie was a force in this game - and in a good way. Yes, he had the occasional lapse a time or two back into his unthinking ways, but for the most part he played a smart and tough game. Not only that, but the plays he was setting up and trying to finish were amazing.
Overall, however, the Lightning weren't that sharp. The reason they won was really more that the Caps had expected an entirely different team on the ice. They didn't seem mentally ready to play a squad that could skate with them stride for stride for 60 minutes. I think it was more of a mental image that they had of this team that was the issue, rather than "rust" from ending their series against the New York Rangers early.
And, honestly, the bounces just went Tampa's way. It really wasn't a very pretty game. The Lightning were sloppy at times, and did some stupid things. Dwayne Roloson, while sharp for the most part, had some mental errors that resulted in goals, too. The Lightning were really lucky to have won this game. It won't be so easy in Game 2 - or it shouldn't be, at least.
Game 2 will be on Sunday, 1 May. Game time is at 7 pm ET. The Raw Charge game thread will open up at 6 pm, so stop in and say hi.