WASHINGTON — Center Chris Gratton could not figure out how the Lightning did not show up for one of its own.
Goaltender Olie Kolzig was in net against the team for which he played 711 games in 16 seasons and led to the 1998 Stanley Cup final. You would think, Gratton said, there would be more support.
"Extremely disappointing," he said after Tampa Bay's 4-2 loss to the Capitals on Monday night at the Verizon Center.
"It was his homecoming and we wanted to play a lot better than we did for him. We just didn't come out ready to compete and match their work ethic. We let Olie down."
Especially in a brutal first period in which Washington scored on its first two shots and took a 3-0 lead while outshooting its Southeast foe 12-6, including 12-2 in the final 12:52.
It wasn't that Washington, winners of six straight over the Lightning (5-5-4), was that good. Tampa Bay, in that period, was that bad, allowing the Capitals tons of skating room and no reason to believe they would be challenged physically.
"If I'm those guys, I can't look Olie in the face," Lightning coach Barry Melrose said. "Probably the biggest game this guy has played in years, and they do that for him. These guys should all be hiding their eyes when they walk by Olie Kolzig tonight."
It wasn't all bad.
Gary Roberts scored his first two goals of the season, both on the power play, and Mark Recchi had two assists for eight in seven games. The team outplayed Washington in the final two periods with an 18-6 shot advantage in the second and a 36-30 advantage in the game.
"It (ticks) you off more because you see how well we can play," Melrose said. … "After the game, I told the guys, 'Why try when you're down 3-0? Why try then?' "
"Your backs are against the wall," Gratton said. "You're trying not to get embarrassed, and you're fighting for Olie as well."
It was quite a day for Kolzig, 38, who broke his routine of not speaking to the media on game days.
There was a scoreboard tribute 11 minutes into the game, and fans chanted his name with "Forever a Capital" on the screen.
"I'm not a big fan of being the center of attention like that," Kolzig said. "It was real nice what they did, but at that point I really didn't pay too much attention to it. I was thinking about some other things."
Such as goals by Tom Poti and Mike Green in 95 seconds that put Washington ahead 2-0 at 9:55. Eric Fehr scored with 3:36 left to make it 3-0. Lightning defensemen Steve Eminger and Lukas Krajicek both were minus-3 in the period.
"We thought they were going to come out a lot harder than they did," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
"It was like we were trying to feel our way through the game instead of dictating from the get-go," right wing Marty St. Louis said.
It was Tampa Bay's second straight sour first period, but there was no reversal of fortune as in Saturday's victory over the Flyers.
"We have a lot of guys who have to do some soul searching," Melrose said. "We have some guys who aren't playing very well right now."
Too bad for Kolzig.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]
First Period—1, Washington, Poti 2 (Brashear, Erskine), 8:20. 2, Washington, Green 5 (Ovechkin, Backstrom), 9:55. 3, Washington, Fehr 1 (Laich, Steckel), 16:24. Penalties—None.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Roberts 1 (Recchi, St. Louis), 16:30 (pp). Penalties—Malik, TB (hooking), 1:26; Krajicek, TB (roughing), 6:18; Brashear, Was, double minor (high-sticking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:47; Steckel, Was (interference), 15:36.
Third Period—5, Washington, Ovechkin 3 (Semin, Schultz), 15:54. 6, Tampa Bay, Roberts 2 (Eminger, Jokinen), 19:34 (pp). Penalties—Erskine, Was (interference), 5:02; Ranger, TB (tripping), 11:10; Erskine, Was (roughing), 17:51; St. Louis, TB (hooking), 20:00. Shots—Tampa Bay 6-18-12—36. Washington 12-6-12—30. Power plays—Tampa Bay 2 of 5; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Kolzig 1-2-1 (30 shots-26 saves). Wash., Johnson 4-1-2 (36-34). A—17,932. T—2:22.