Roloson stopped all 34 shots faced in his Tampa Bay Lightning debut and St. Louis scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help the Lightning defeat the Washington Capitals 1-0 with a victory at the Verizon Center Tuesday night.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Roloson said following his 25th career shutout. “I wanted to just stay focused and stay relaxed. It was a lot of fun, that’s for sure.”
The Lightning net minder, acquired from the New York Islanders on Saturday, won for the fifth time in his last six games. After cruising through the opening period rather effortlessly in which he faced just five shots, Roloson endured a barrage of Washington chances in the second period. He turned away a season-high 21 shots, including quality saves on Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin to keep the contest tied at zero.
“He was huge for us. He made a lot of big saves,” forward Adam Hall said of his new teammate. “They had a lot of chances, but we stayed tight defensively and the winner of this game was ultimately going to come down to who made that first mistake.”
Semyon Varlamov stopped 37 shots for Washington, who lost for just the second time in seven games and now trails the Lightning by one point at the top of the Southeast Division standings.
St. Louis beat Varlamov at 2:54 of the extra session after sending a rebound from the low slot through the legs of a Washington defender and into a wide open net to give Tampa Bay just its third win in its last 15 games against its division rivals.
“The last two times we played them, we tried to beat them at their game, and that was the wrong approach,” Head Coach Guy Boucher said. “Tonight we wanted to put our team on the ice and play our game. We had to be ourselves tonight.”
Tampa Bay has points in six straight games on the road, each decided in either overtime or a shootout, dating back to an extra-period loss back on Dec. 10 at Edmonton. Tuesday’s win was the first in three attempts this season against the Capitals.
“We didn’t play well the first two games versus these guys,” defenseman Mattias Ohlund said. “We wanted to play aggressive, but the key for us was not to give their skill guys a lot of chances.”
Washington had its three-game win streak snapped, but has points in seven straight. The Capitals haven’t lost in regulation since Dec. 18 against Boston.
Steve Downie returned to the lineup for the Lightning after missing 13 straight games with an ankle sprain. He dropped the gloves in the second period after being challenged along the boards by Washington center Matt Hendricks.
“I wanted to bring some energy tonight,” Downie said. “It’s my first game back, so I just tried to keep things simple.”
Tampa Bay is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games.
“It was a playoff atmosphere and as a team we wanted to play a smart game,” Roloson added. “We definitely played our game and we got a win. That’s all that matters.”
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