Down 3-1 and headed to the third against Tampa Bay, it didn't look like the Capitals' night on Friday at Capital One Arena. They played a great first period but trailed by a goal after 20, and a late second period Lightning goal left them down a pair of pucks heading into the third. But the Caps kept with the game plan, and their perseverance paid off. The Caps knotted the score and forced overtime with a pair of goals in the final frame, and Dmitry Orlov won it for Washington in the extra stanza, scoring his first goal since the season opener in St. Louis on Oct. 2.
"We just were focusing on getting that second goal in that third period, and then go from there," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Great job by the players, staying focused until the very end."
Orlov has been snakebitten of late, and he was early in Friday's game as well. He hit a post early, and in the second period he had his stick explode as he teed up a one-timer from center point. But he also drew a critical penalty in the third period, and soon afterwards supplied the primary assist on the game-tying power-play tally.
In overtime, Orlov hopped over the boards, took a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov, and snapped a shot past Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy at 3:03.
Video: Postgame | November 29
"I had a few good chances before, and pucks didn't go in," says Orlov. "Today I got a post, a broken stick, and finally the puck found the net. It was a good comeback by us."
Washington got out of the gates well in the first and it generated a number of excellent scoring chances in the first frame. Vasilevskiy was busy, and he was also dialed in. He made a good blocker save on Jakub Vrana from the shot and also denied a Vrana one-timer late in the period. He also denied Kuznetsov on a semi-breakaway.
Meanwhile, the Caps kept the Bolts bottled up for the most part at 5-on-5. Washington outshot the Lightning 14-4 at even strength in the first, and two of those four Tampa Bay shots came in the first half minute of the game the Caps held the Bolts without a shot on goal for nearly nine minutes, and it took a Tampa Bay power play to break that spell.
Over a span of 16 minutes and 57 seconds in the first, the Caps limited the Lightning to one shot on net, a power play slapshot from Victor Hedman. Typically a strong first-period team, Tampa Bay didn't have much going on at all, but former Lightning winger Richard Panik took a hi-sticking penalty late in the frame, which gave the Bolts some life.
Brayden Point scored from the slot on that Tampa Bay power play, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead with just 1:10 remaining in the first.
Early in the second, the Bolts doubled their lead when Mikhail Serghachev followed up his own shot and tapped in a loose puck that was lingering in the crease at 4:28.
Less than half a minute later, Sergachev went to the box for interference, and Washington halved the lead on the ensuing power play. T.J. Oshie carried down the right-wing wall on the rush, and he issued a back door feed for Kuznetsov, who converted on the timing play at 5:17 of the second to make it a 2-1 game.
Video: TBL@WSH: Kuznetsov nets PPG off feed from Oshie
But for the second time in as many periods, the Lightning struck in the penultimate minute of the middle frame. This time, the goal restored its two-goal cushion.
Tampa Bay turned a sustained offensive zone shift into a goal, working the puck around the perimeter and then taking a 3-1 lead when Alex Killorn jumped onto the ice fresh and scored from the right circle at 18:48.
As well as Washington played in the first, the Bolts were strong in the second. From the time of Panik's penalty late in the first until the early portion of the third, the Caps were outshot 19-6. Given the way Vasilevskiy was playing and the difficulty the Caps were having at that point, a comeback didn't seem likely.
Down two early in the third, the idea is to get one in the first half of the final frame, and the Caps achieved that goal. After an offside, the Caps lost a face-off at the Tampa Bay line. But Washington interrupted a Lightning pass in neutral ice and broke back into the Bolts' zone. Oshie put a pass to Vrana in the right circle, and the latter's one-timer blazed past Vasilevskiy at 3:45, although it wasn't immediately evident to most in the building.
Similar to Orlov, Vrana's perseverance paid off as well.
"He's a pretty good goalie," says Vrana. "I didn't know from the beginning how to put the puck through him, so honestly I was really happy that it went in."
Vrana's goal gave the crowd some life and brought the Caps to within a goal, and the crowd became vociferous soon afterwards when Alex Ovechkin was taken off for an offensive zone interference call on Sergachev. Washington's penalty killing outfit came up big on that sequence, executing the kill with aplomb.
When Nikita Kucherov was deemed guilty of holding Orlov just ahead of the midpoint of the period, the Caps' power play went to work. The first unit had some looks and chances but didn't convert, and the Ovechkin finally wired home a shot from the office off a feed from Orlov, as the second unit came through with just 10 seconds remaining on Kucherov's sentence.
Video: Orlov, Capitals rally for OT victory
Holtby made a couple of stellar stops late to prevent the Lightning from retaking the lead, setting the stage for Orlov's overtime heroics. The goal was the first overtime game-winner of his NHL career.
The loss was the second straight for the Lightning (0-1-1), which had won six of eight prior to that.
"I thought the last 40 minutes were pretty good," says Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. "A couple of mistakes ended up in the back of the net. We did a lot of good things again, it's just that when we break down, the pucks find a way to end up in the net. It's unfortunate because we felt we could have had two here tonight."