TLDR: Despite goals by Lars Eller, Carl Hagelin, and T.J. Oshie, and the equalizer by Kuznetsov, as well as 50+ shots on goal, the Caps just couldn’t solve Vasilevskiy for the second time this season. Tampa Bay wins 5-4 in overtime. Capitals still maintain top spot in the Metro.
For the second time in less than a week, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference played one another, but this time, it was in OUR house. Coming off of a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils last night, the Washington Capitals took back the Metro division, and headed home for the first of a four-game home stand. The Tampa Bay Lightning, however, have not only clinched their playoff spot, but have also claimed the Presidents’ Trophy as their own. Now just because a curse exists, that doesn’t mean a certain event will not occur. However, only 8 teams have won both the trophy and then gone on to also win the Stanley Cup. Sure, that’s a 1 in 4 chance, but I just keep thinking back to the Capitals in years past. Despite a valiant comeback effort, last Saturday, the Lightning beat the Capitals 6-3, after scoring two empty net goals. Tonight, the Capitals looked to match Tampa, with a win of their own. Unfortunately, that would not be the case.
Once again, the Capitals entrusted tonights’ game to Braden Holtby, and Andrei Vasilevskiy got the start for Tampa. Expected to be a Round 2 battle between the two powerhouses, we knew it would be a very fast and very physically demanding 60 minutes. As mentioned last week, it was imperative for the Caps to get on the board early. They simply could not afford to have another slow start like they did a few days ago. Not even two minutes past puck drop, and the Capitals already had a number of great scoring chances. An early stop by Holtby on an Anthony Cirelli breakaway kept the game at zero each. An unfortunate turnover by Tampa allowed Carl Hagelin to feed the puck up the center of the ice, and with that, Lars Eller scored his 12th goal of the season.
Shortly thereafter, the Capitals would earn their first power play of the night, as Steven Stamkos would go off for holding. The good guys would only register on shot with the man-advantage, and Tampa’s Number 1 penalty kill would keep the Caps from improving their lead. Braden Holtby would be hit up high through the mask by the stick of Brooks Orpik, drawing some blood, but would be good enough to finish the period. With three minutes left in the period, the Capitals would get a second power play, as John Rutta would go to the box for tripping. Tom Wilson would unfairly be called for holding, and Tampa would get their first power play with 30 seconds left in the period. While the Lightning would start the second with the remainder of that man-advantage, the Capitals lead 1-0 heading into the intermission.
The second period started with a power play goal by Nikita Kucherov with just eight seconds left on the man-advantage, tying the game 1-1. Now the Capitals need to play the remaining 40 minutes with just as much, if not more power and drive than the first 20. Unfortunately, Ovechkin would go off for elbowing and Tampa headed right back on the power play. Off the faceoff, Steven Stamkos would score, giving the Lightning their first lead of the game. What once seemed to be a manageable game, started to tilt. Another deflection off of John Carlson gives Tampa a 3-1 lead. Anthony Cirelli would ultimately be credited with the goal. A set up by Lars Eller would give Carl Hagelin a nearly-wide open net, and, in scoring his 5th of the season, 3rd with Washington, would bring the Caps within one.
The Capitals would get another power play opportunity as Mikhail Sergachev was sent off for slashing. T.J. Oshie would get second-chance bounce off his skate, and the puck would find the back of the net. The Caps power play goal would be the game-tying goal.
Dmitry Orlov would go off for slashing, and in a high-scoring second, the Caps would fight to keep Tampa from scoring again. Nikita Kucherov would score his second as the Caps’ defense couldn’t keep it together and Holtby was asked to make one too many stops. The Tampa’s #1 power play strikes again, and the Lightning would reclaim the lead, 4-3. Michal Kempny would need to be carried down the tunnel with a lower body injury, and a scrum involving players on both sides would ensue. Jakub Vrana and Yanni Gourde would both receive five-minute majors for fighting, Michal Kempny and Cedric Paquette would receive two minutes for roughing. Sergachev would also get two minutes for roughing. The Caps would end up with a power play, but would not score. Six goals were scored in the 2nd, and the Lightning lead 4-3.
Michal Kempny did not return to play the last period, and per the team, suffered a lower-body injury. The Capitals would receive an early third period power play, as Ovechkin was taken down by Ondrej Palat. The Caps would not tie it. It was encouraging to see Braden Holtby sharpen up as the period progressed. With under 10 left, the Caps would head back to the power play, and despite a number of great looks, again, they would not score. Head coach Todd Reirden would pull Holtby with under 2 to go, and somehow, Evgeny Kuznetsov would tie the game with under 60 seconds left. The Capitals would go to overtime.
3-on-3 Sudden Death Overtime: Victor Hedman would score the game-winning goal. Tampa wins 5-4.
FiCP’s Three Takeaways of the Game
- Stop. Drawing. Penalties. I don’t care how bad the referees are. They will always call bad penalties, so don’t give them a reason to call them
- Scratch Orlov. Or Carlson. But not Djoos.
- The power play needs work. Especially against top penalty-killing teams.