Before, during and after Tuesday's Southeast Division showdown, new Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson looked calm, cool and collected.
It was hard to tell that the veteran netminder, in his Lightning debut, jumped smack into the middle of a battle for first place. But his presence certainly made a difference for a Tampa Bay team that had been smacked around by the Washington Capitals in two previous meetings this season.
Roloson, acquired Saturday from the New York Islanders, made his first game one to remember, stopping all 34 shots he faced as Tampa Bay moved into sole possession of first place in the division following a 1-0 overtime victory in front of a sold-out Verizon Center crowd. Roloson became the first goaltender in franchise history to record a shutout in his debut with the team.
"We made that trade because we thought he would improve our team and tonight he did everything he could to make that happen,'' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
It was also the 25th shutout of his career, as he became the 72nd goaltender in NHL history and 11th active to reach the milestone.
Marty St. Louis scored on a rebound 2:54 into overtime for his 17th goal of the season to ensure Roloson's debut effort was victorious.
"You are just trying to worry about what you have to do to help your team win, especially in a new environment and everything else,'' Roloson said. "It was a lot of different situations, a lot of different things going on, so for me personally I was just trying to focus on what I had to do and control the things I could control and give our guys a chance to win.''
There isn't much Roloson hasn't done or seen throughout his career. He's been shipped to the minors as a 31-year-old, played sparingly as a backup behind Dominik Hasek, carried a team to the Stanley Cup finals, played internationally for Canada and been traded during the season all before landing in a Lightning uniform.
So while wearing his Islanders mask and donning his New York goalie pads while wearing a Lightning jersey, Roloson looked to be a perfect fit.
"I wasn't nervous at all,'' said Roloson, who will also start tonight against Pittsburgh. "As an old coach once said, if you are nervous you are not prepared. So I was prepared for the game and just wanted to go out and relax and play my game.''
At times, Roloson was spectacular, keeping the high-powered Capitals, who had scored a combined 12 goals in the first two meetings, off the scoreboard. His first shot faced came from Alex Ovechkin in the slot and the second came from a pinching John Carlson, who slid down from the right point for an open look. Both times, Roloson calmly squared himself to the shot and gathered the puck without giving up a rebound.
Rarely did he look rattled or out of position. And during the few times pucks looked loose for rebound chances, Lightning defenders were hovering in the area to clear the decks.
"I thought tonight, for a first game, the guys played awesome,'' said Roloson, who stopped 21 shots in the second period alone. "I give them a lot of credit tonight for how they played in front of me. For the most part I saw everything, and anytime there was a rebound they were able to clear it for me.''
As Roloson was spectacular at one end, Washington's Semyon Varlamov was just as good at the other. The reigning player of the week was equally as strong between the pipes, turning aside 37 Lightning shots by the end of the game.
And in a battle for first place between teams that traded momentum swings, swapped scoring chances and with each team's goaltenders putting in a playoff-worthy showing, somebody had to come out on top.
"Both teams had their surges, weren't able to score and both goalies were tremendous and it needed extra time,'' St. Louis said.
St. Louis wound up providing the heroics by putting in a rebound of a Vinny Lecavalier shot so Roloson could have a hero's welcome.
"Rollie played extremely well,'' St. Louis said. "For his first game here, we're glad he's off to this kind of a start.''
Tribune's 3 Stars
1. Lightning G Dwayne Rolson – Stopped all 34 shots he faced for his 25th career shutout
2. Capitals G Semyon Varlamov – Turned aside 37 shots before letting one by in overtime
3. Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier – Six shots, including one to set up rebound chance on overtime winner