THE RESULT: Two of the top scoring teams in the league played to a scoreless draw through sixty minutes.  Both teams played gritty, tight checking defense and their goalies played superbly as one would imagine in a 0-0 tie.

But breakdowns by all five players in red led to the Tampa Bay Lightning netting the game-winner two minutes into extra time, and the visitors took the extra point from the homestanding Washington Capitals.

The win gives Tampa Bay (24-11-5-53) a one point lead in the divison with one game in hand as the Caps (23-12-6-52) reach the official half-way point of the season.

We'll get the obvious out of the way:  both goalies were terrific, turning away 30-plus shot each.  Semyon Varlamov and noted Caps-killer Dwayne Roloson were outstanding.  Both teams had ample shots and quality scoring opportunities, but the goalies were up to the task.

Roloson has a history of taking down the Caps, and in his first game with Tampa Bay he was still employing his New York Islanders facemask and pads.  But the veteran shone for his new squad, which has struggled all season with Mike Smith and Dan Ellis in net, neither of whom own a save percentage over 90 percent.

Alex Ovechkin was at a loss as to the team's lack of finishing opportunities against Roloson.  “We just didn’t find a rhythm.  We didn’t get rebounds. Their defense played great and he made unbelievable saves a couple of times.”

“I think we played well defensively as a group tonight,” Caps forward Matt Hendricks said. “I don’t think our legs were there to get in on the forecheck and do the little things necessary to put pucks in the back of the net. But defensively I thought we played well.”

"It was a combination of two teams wanting the win tonight.  Neither team seemed to be budging on allowing opportunities.  I guess that's what you'd call 'playoff hockey', and we're as desperate for points as they are."

Which makes the game-winning play that much more hurtful.

It started with Jeff Schultz making a clearing pass up the left side boards... to no one.  Defenseman Pavel Kubina gathered it and brought it into the offensive zone in front of Brooks Laich, who couldn't cut off Kubina so he let him go for Jeff Schultz to pick up.

Instead of standing up the rushing defenseman, Schultz allowed himself to be walked back to the goal line where Kubina dropped the puck to a trailing Vincent Lecavalier, whom Laich failed to defend.

Lecavalier got a weak shot off from the right wing dot that Varlamov couldn't steer to a corner, instead leaving the rebound out into the slot.

Tom Poti, in his first game back from groin trouble, was at the top of Varlamov's crease, and could not react in time to the puck going through the slot, which went straight to Martin St. Louis.  The diminutive forward had raced past Nicklas Backstrom to gather the puck and flick a one timer past a now out-of-position Varlamov, still on his knees from blocking the Lecavalier shot.

Poti watched, helplessly, from his post at the top of the crease.

This was a good, exciting defensive hockey game, one for the purists.  It's just unfortunate that all five Caps broke down on the same play in overtime.

Regardless, coach Bruce Boudreau was succinct in his evaluation after the game.

"We're not scoring a lot of goals.  Thank God we're getting good goaltending and playing solid defense.  Cause we're not scoring a lot of goals."

THE GOOD:  Varlamov.  His defense played well in front of him, getting into passing lanes all night long, but the young Russian is really cementing a hold on the goalie spot for now.  All that can change in one game, but he's only given up four goals in his last four games.

THE BAD: Tom Poti.  He might have played, but he still had trouble skating.  He couldn't get into position all night long, instead relied on reaching and pushing instead of skating to hold position. He simply watched as St. Louis collected the rebound and pushed it past Varlamov, helpless to get into any sort of position to help.

THE UGLY: Alexander Semin.  Last night was another prime example of why the Caps are so squeamish about giving him a long-term deal.  He was, in a word, dreadful.  Spent most of his night floating around, never committing to either side of the ice.  Mis-handled puck at the point on a power play which led to a scoring chance the other way, and fell down trying to make some attempt at defense.

That was a recurring theme for The Enigma.  He fell no fewer than a half-dozen times last night, unmolested.  Let's just hope it was a skate problem.  Yeah, we'll go with that.

Oh, and he had the requisite offensive zone stick penalty, a trip with four minutes to play in the second period.

THE STATS: No goals.

NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:00 pm against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.


3. John Carlson.  Was on the ice every time Steven Stamkos was, and limited the league's top goal scorer to four innocent shots.  Was tough in the corners and got 2:07 of PP time. 
2. Karl Alzner.  See John Carlson. His physical play and positioning was excellent. One needn't be a big hitter to play a physical game.
1. Semyon Varlamov.  Stellar in net once again, allowing no goals on 33 shots over 60 minutes.  Saw another five in OT until his defense finally let him down.