Bolts beat ‘hockey machine’ as Boudreau bemoans ‘river hockey’

WASHINGTON, DC — Bruce Boudreau was speaking about Steve Downie's tying goal in the Washington Capitals' Game 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he might as well have been talking about the entirety of his team's effort to open the Eastern Conference semifinals:

"I'm a firm a believer that, in the end, you get what you deserve."

In the end, the Capitals deserved to lose this game. "I think we play too cute and we took lots of penalties and that cost us," said Alex Ovechkin.

The turnovers. The sloppy drop passes. The lack of quality chances on a power play that that went 0-for-5; and the quality chances they gave a Lightning offense that remained dangerous even after losing Simon Gagne to an upper body injury in the first period.

"You can't play river hockey," said Boudreau after the 4-2 loss on Friday night. "This wasn't the way we play. This was reverting back to an older day [for the Capitals]."

While Boudreau was critical of his team, the Lightning had nothing but praise for the Capitals. Such is the way of playoff psychological warfare.

"They came out real hard. They had their chances. They should have beat us. But we stayed alive," said Bolts winger Steve Downie, whose deflected shot off of Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan knotted the game at 2-2 at 16:17 of the second period before Steven Stamkos's power-play goal at 19:28 gave Tampa the lead for good.

Lightning Coach Guy Boucher echoed his winger's words, while amplified the praise for the Capitals.

"We're surprised [we won], to be honest with you. This is a machine here. It's a hockey machine that's in its fifth year of its plan. They're supposed to win this year," said Boucher. "I think they might be the best team in the league. We're coming here and we're just learning how to win as a team. Half the team hasn't played in the playoffs.

"When you lose Gagne and you're down to 10 forwards, that's when you feel lucky to get out of it."

So the Bolts won Game 1 in a building that has what can best be called "Fan Muscle Memory": Things go badly in the postseason and the tension becomes palpable in the stands. In the third period, down a goal, the Capitals were booed by the home fans on an ineffective power play. The place fell dead silent after Tampa goals.

Do the Lightning feel they've planted a seed of doubt here in Washington about this series? "Maybe," said forward Nate Thompson, "but it's a seven game series. I don't think anybody expects it's going to be a quick series at all."

Boucher didn't believe Game 1 damaged the home team's psyche. "No," he said, "because if you look at the Canadiens, they won the first two games in Boston, and they lost the series.

"To me, it's just one game. We're very well aware of what kind of machine they got."