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Lightning, Caps set to renew rivalry

by Frank Mentesana
LIGHTNING (1-1-0) at CAPITALS (1-0-0)


Season Series: This is the first of six meetings between the fierce Southeast division rivals. In 2010-11, the Capitals posted a 4-1-1 record in the regular-season series, led by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who each tallied 2 goals and 8 assists, and Alexander Semin, who notched two hat tricks against the Lightning. The Caps look to continue their tremendous success against the Bolts in the regular season, as they are 19-3-1 in the last 23 regular-season matchups and 9-1-1 in the past 11 meetings at the Verizon Center.

Big Story: While Washington has dominated Tampa Bay -- and most other opponents -- in the regular season, it fell flat against the Lightning in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. Monday's game marks the first time the clubs will square off since that Eastern Conference semifinal series, when the Lightning abruptly ended the Caps' season in four games. The Capitals might have won the battle by surging to win their fourth straight division title, but the Lightning won the war with the series sweep.

"That was last year. This year is going to be much different," Ovechkin said following the Capitals' 4-3 overtime win against Carolina in Saturday's season opener.

Team Scope:

Lightning: The Lightning will be playing their third game in four days as part of their five-game, season-opening road trip. They had mixed results over the weekend, routing the Hurricanes 5-1 on Friday and then falling 4-1 to Boston on Saturday in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals. Martin St. Louis reached a milestone in the loss, as Tampa Bay's lone goal was the 300th of his illustrious career.
Backup goalie Mathieu Garon started against the defending Cup champions and saw plenty of shots in his first action of the season, as Boston outshot Tampa Bay 42-26. Dwayne Roloson, who turns 42 on Wednesday, is expected to be back in goal against the Capitals, who fired 36 shots in their opener.

"We knew coming in that this trip was going to be a good test for us," Adam Hall told the Lightning's web site. "Obviously at the beginning of any season you want to come out strong and put your best foot forward, but at the same time we knew a lot of these teams were going to give us their best stuff."

Capitals: After Mike Green scored the sixth overtime winner of his career on Saturday, the Capitals improved to 10-0-0 in their last 10 home openers, outscoring their opponents 48-21 in those contests. The last time the Caps lost their home opener was on Oct. 6, 2000 when the Los Angeles Kings beat them 4-1.

In 15:41 of ice time, Ovechkin took just two shots, but recorded an assist in an exciting game that featured two power-play goals by each squad, including Green’s game-winner. In net, Michal Neuvirth allowed the tying goal with 1:19 remaining in regulation, but made some excellent stops in OT allowing the Caps to earn the extra point. Neuvirth will most likely rest on Monday, as former Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun is expected to make his debut for the Capitals. He could have his hands full with Tampa Bay's high-powered attack, which is certainly familiar to coach Bruce Boudreau.

"They've got a lot of weapons," Boudreau told the Capitals' web site. "They're a very good team. And the last time we saw them, they beat us four times in a row. It should be a very interesting game."

Who's Hot: For the Bolts, the usual suspects have found the scoresheet in their first couple of games, as St. Louis leads the club with 2 goals and 3 points. Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, and Ryan Malone each have 2 points. …While 10 Capitals recorded a point in the team's OT win against the Hurricanes, Backstrom is the only player with multiple points, as he tallied a pair of assists.

Injury Report: Tampa Bay is without defensemen Mattias Ohlund (knee inflammation) and Scott Jackson (offseason knee surgery), who are on injured reserve. …Washington defensemen Tom Poti (groin) and John Erskine (shoulder) are also on IR to begin the season.
Stat Pack: The Bolts have yet to surrender a power-play goal in their first two games, successfully killing off 11 penalties. Roloson is 6-1-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average in his last eight games against Washington, including playoffs. …Should he play, Vokoun also carries in great numbers against the opposition, with a 4-0-1 record and 1.55 GAA in his last five games against the Lightning.

Puck Drop: "We owe them a good game," Green told the Capitals' web site. "They took us down last year in four and that's something you don't forget. It doesn't mean we’re gunning out there for anybody, it just means that we're going to play our hardest game and make sure we challenge them."

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