ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Washington Capitals have had their way with Tampa Bay since the Lightning came into existence four years ago.
In eight games before last night, the Capitals had lost once. And last night, the dominance was extended, as the Capitals won easily, 4-2.
Jim Johnson, Steve Konowalchuk, Peter Bondra and Keith Jones scored for the Capitals. And while Caps goalie Jim Carey missed his third shutout against Tampa Bay, he made 24 saves on 26 shots, including two big ones on breakaways in the opening period.
"Early in the game we had some breakdowns that we needed big saves on, and Jim was there to make them," said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld. "They had those two breakaways and he stoned both guys. They are saves that can turn a game one way or the other.
"You need those saves. It's an imperfect game, and if a goalie can come up with the timely ones, it can elevate the bench, gives you confidence in his play and it keeps you going in the offensive direction you want to go in."
Carey (6-1-0) allowed a goal to Shawn Burr on a two-on-none breakaway in the second period and then a second one with 3:07 to play in the third. Cory Cross came out of the penalty box on a breakaway and simply beat him.
"You can't afford to drop games against this kind of team," said Carey. "I think we all stepped it up a notch."
As for those stops he made on Tampa Bay breakaways, Carey said saves like those don't do anything to deflate the opposing team.
"But I think that kind of save does more to boost our guys up than it does take theirs down," he said.
The Capitals left after the game for St. Louis, where they will play the Blues tonight.
And if they have success there, Schoenfeld said he will attribute part of it to the performance of his fourth line of Craig Berube, Jason Allison and Johnson.
"They were a good force at both ends of the rink," said Schoenfeld. "The goal Jimmy scored was a real heads-up play by Berube, with Allison sniping down the middle. That's what we want him to do. And Jimmy with the quick release of the shot. . . ."
The production and good work by that fourth line, Schoenfeld said, should help the Capitals tonight in terms of physical strength.
"You know with three games in four nights, it helps to use four lines," he said. "We shouldn't have anyone over-fatigued [in St. Louis]."
Schoenfeld must decide who to bench tonight to make room for the return of center Michal Pivonka. The play of that fourth line will make the decision harder.
Allison came away with his first two points of the season, assisting on Johnson's goal and the one by Bondra.
Johnson's goal and a short-handed goal by Konowalchuk off a nice pass from Kelly Miller had given the Capitals a 2-0 first-period lead.
Bondra's goal came two minutes after the Lightning had closed to 2-1 on Burr's goal.
"I had been getting a little down on myself," said Allison, who came to the Caps as an offensive star in the Ontario Hockey League. "My confidence got down, and that hurts your whole game, not just your offense. The last three games, I'd been worrying about things instead of concentrating on hockey. But Coach told me to stop worrying about it and just play. That the better I play, the more I'll play."