It took just one game for newcomer Dwayne Roloson to make an impact for his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates.
Clad in his New York Islanders mask and uniform number 31, Roloson made 34 saves – including 21 in the second period – to beat the Washington Capitals, 1-0 in overtime, and take sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division.
Martin St. Louis provided the only offense of the game with his 17th goal of the year, ripping a Vincent Lecavalier rebound into a gaping net at 2:54 of the extra period.
The significance of Roloson’s performance against a team that had tortured the Lightning by scoring 12 goals in two prior contests, and in a game of such magnitude, cannot be stressed enough.
Roloson stopped eight Alex Ovechkin offerings, as well as six from Alexander Semin, who had been a thorn in the Bolts’ side with hat tricks and in both previous meetings. Semin had registered six goals and eight points against Tampa this season.
The problem for the Bolts was trying to solve Washington starter Semyon Varlamov, who had been equally perfect. The 22-year-old made 33 saves during regulation, and stopped the first four of overtime. But he could not control the Lecavalier rebound, and St. Louis made sure he made Varlamov pay.
Coach Guy Boucher said before the game that the team should just stay out of Roloson’s way, as he hasn’t had any time to learn the Lightning’s system.
But Boucher also stressed that the club wants Roloson to play his style and not change how he plays. And judging by his first game wearing the Bolt, that would appear to be good advice to follow.
Tampa Bay now has 53 points, two more than the Capitals for first place in the Southeast, and ties them with the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins for the most in the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning now travel to Pittsburgh for a game against Sidney Crosby and the Pens tomorrow night.
Bolts Bits: St. Louis’ overtime goal was his fourth game-winner of the season, second on the team only to Steven Stamkos, who has six…Lecavalier played an inspired game, and tied Teddy Purcell for the Bolts lead with six shots on goal…winger Steve Downie returned from a high ankle sprain and had a first period fight with Matt Hendrick. It was Downie’s first game since December 2nd and saw 11:39 of ice time.
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