TAMPA — Lightning coach Guy Boucher had a word in mind to describe his team's 5-2 loss to the Capitals on Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"A very weak word," he said.
Asked what would be better, he said, "I don't think I want to say that on camera."
It wasn't so much the loss. Those will happen. It was the way Tampa Bay (32-16-5), which had been on a six-game winning streak, did not respond to an opponent it knew was going to come out roaring and in front of an announced sellout crowd of 20,216 to boot.
Boucher even wrote on the locker-room message board the words of Capitals wing Matt Bradley, who said the game was the biggest of the season as a loss would have put Washington seven points behind the Lightning in the Southeast.
And don't discount the revenge factor. Tampa Bay and goalie Dwayne Roloson shut out the Capitals in two previous games.
"There was absolutely no urgency in our game," Boucher said. "We weren't scared of them. There was no fear, and that's a lack of respect for an opponent."
Washington, three points back in the division, had a 35-25 shot advantage, 17-6 in the first period. It was first to the puck and got pucks to the net while Tampa Bay's forecheck, and its top players, vanished.
Steven Stamkos had one shot, Marty St. Louis had two, and Vinny Lecavalier lost 15 of 22 faceoffs.
"I've got to play better. Our line has to play better," Stamkos said. "Their top guys played better than our top guys."
"We weren't ready," right wing Teddy Purcell said. "I guess we didn't give them enough respect."
Purcell gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead 3:21 into the game on the team's first shot. But that was more than offset by Nicklas Backstrom, with two goals and four points, and Alex Ovechkin, with a goal, four points and 10 shots.
Washington also threw in a strategic twist in which players stood in the defensive zone with the puck, daring the Lightning to come after them.
The idea was to compromise Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 system. It also killed time while the teams eyed each other, waiting for someone to move.
"It's only good when you're leading," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was something we tried because nothing seemed to work before. For the first time in a long time, we just focused in practice on beating Tampa."
"I don't know if that was kind of a mockery of our system or a game plan," Stamkos said. "That's a first for us seeing a team try that. We'll see from here on out if any other teams do that."
Such as the Blues on Sunday.
"We didn't play well," Stamkos said. "It's up to us to come out and prove it was a once-in-a-while type thing."
First Period —1, Tampa Bay, Purcell 11 (Gagne, Hedman), 3:21. 2, Washington, Backstrom 13 (Ovechkin, Green), 9:09. Penalties—Ohlund, TB (roughing), :31; Hendricks, Was (goaltender interference), 8:21; Roloson, TB, served by Purcell (roughing), 8:21; Hendricks, Was, major (fighting), 10:39; Downie, TB, major (fighting), 10:39; Chimera, Was (slashing), 11:00; Bradley, Was, major (fighting), 14:07; Hall, TB, major (fighting), 14:07; Erskine, Was (interference), 16:27.
Second Period—3, Washington, Laich 10 (Perreault, Beagle), 6:38. 4, Washington, Ovechkin 20 (Backstrom, Carlson), 8:25 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Clark 8 (Purcell, Gagne), 19:19 (pp). Penalties—R.Jones, TB (holding), 1:17; Ohlund, TB (tripping), 7:41; Johansson, Was (interference), 10:23; Hendricks, Was (high-sticking), 17:27.
Third Period—6, Washington, Backstrom 14 (Ovechkin, Chimera), 12:22. 7, Washington, Chimera 8 (Ovechkin, Backstrom), 19:22 (en). Penalties—Downie, TB (tripping), 7:11. Shots on Goal—Washington 17-10-9—36. Tampa Bay 6-10-9—25. Power-play opportunities—Washington 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Washington, Varlamov 9-7-4 (25 shots-23 saves). Tampa Bay, Roloson 14-17-1 (35-31). A—20,216 (19,758).