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Caps Drop Tourney Opener to Bolts, 7-6

Sanford scores twice, Boyd racks up three points but Caps lose a pair of two-goal leads and the tournament-opening game to Tampa Bay

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Washington and Tampa Bay hooked up in a barnburner to kick off the 2016 rookie tournament in Coral Springs, Fla. on Saturday afternoon. The Capitals twice had two-goal leads in Saturday's game, but ultimately suffered a 7-6 setback. 

"I think defensively we had a little bit of a challenge," says Hershey coach Troy Mann, who is running the Caps' bench at the tournament. "We struggled at times getting the puck breakout. We had one practice and you can only go over so many things. I think some of the things we talked about yesterday they executed pretty well.

Washington and Tampa Bay hooked up in a barnburner to kick off the 2016 rookie tournament in Coral Springs, Fla. on Saturday afternoon. The Capitals twice had two-goal leads in Saturday's game, but ultimately suffered a 7-6 setback. 

"I think defensively we had a little bit of a challenge," says Hershey coach Troy Mann, who is running the Caps' bench at the tournament. "We struggled at times getting the puck breakout. We had one practice and you can only go over so many things. I think some of the things we talked about yesterday they executed pretty well.

"From top to bottom, you could tell who our best players were. There was a little bit of a gap from maybe the first line to the fourth line. It was a little bit of a mixed bag when it came to the execution of the lineup."

The fireworks started early in Saturday's opening tilt. Just 73 seconds after the opening face-off, Washington's Madison Bowey fought the Lightning's Adam Erne; Caps winger Riley Barber was assessed a minor penalty on the same sequence. The Caps killed off the Barber penalty and took a 1-0 lead seconds after Barber exited the box.

Caps pivot Travis Boyd harassed Tampa Bay goaltender Adam Wilcox into turning the puck over behind the Lightning net. Boyd fed Jakub Vrana in front, and Vrana scored from the slot to give the Caps a 1-0 lead at 3:16. 

Zach Sanford doubled the Washington advantage at 4:40 when he pounced on a puck and jammed it past Wilcox from the top of the paint. 

"It's always good to get a lucky bounce like that or just smack one in right away," says Sanford. "It was a good feeling." 

Tampa Bay's Mitchell Stephens scored at the seven-minute mark of the first, beating Washington goaltender Vitek Vanecek to halve the Caps' lead.

With Caps defenseman Dmitriy Zaitsev off for holding, the Lightning tied the game at 2-2 on a Brian Hart one-timer from the slot.

Washington regained the lead at 12:40 of the frame, going up 3-2 on a pretty goal from Boyd. From the left wing half wall, Vrana fed Boyd, who was cruising into the slot. Boyd skirted his check with a nifty toe-drag move, then beat Wilcox with a bar-down wrist shot.

The Capitals regained their two-goal cushion at 8:17 of the second on a John Parker shorthanded goal. Parker skated down the right side and fired from the outside of the right circle, beating Wilcox high. 

With 10:02 remaining in the middle frame, both sides made goaltending changes. Adam Carlson took over for Vanecek in the Washington net and Conner Ingram came on in relief of Wilcox for Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay was able to knot the score by denting Carlson with a couple of quick goals. Brett Howden finished off a pretty passing play from in tight at 10:31 to make it a 4-3 game. Just over two minutes later, Erne scored immediately after a Brayden Point face-off win at the Capitals' end of the ice. 

Once again, the Caps took the lead when they scored the first goal of the third period. With Daniel Walcott off for hooking, Sanford scored a power-play goal - his second goal of the game - with help from Lucas Johansen at 7:03 to move the Capitals into a 5-4 lead. 

Less than three minutes later, Howden scored his second goal of the game to even the contest at 5-5 just ahead of the midpoint of the final frame. The Lightning then struck twice in a span of 62 seconds to take a two-goal lead of its own late in the game. 

Point made a neat deflection of a Libor Hajek shot from the left point to give the Bolts their first lead of the game at 13:36, and Point scored in transition just over a minute later, after ill-advised Washington "hope" pass up the middle of the ice. Point's two quick tallies staked the Bolts to a 7-5 lead. 

Washington bounced back to make it 7-6 on Riley Barber's rebound strike with 4:02 left, but the Caps were unable to manufacture the equalizer after pulling Carlson for an extra attacker.

Sanford scored a pair of goals for the Caps while Boyd contributed a goal and two helpers.

"I thought Sanford was strong," says Mann. "I personally felt that Boyd was the best player on the ice for both teams. I thought he was real good. I'd say Sanford was right up there with Boyd." 

Washington takes on the host Florida Panthers on Sunday at 6 p.m. in its second game of the tourney. Mann said Vanecek would start and go the distance against the Cats and Carlson would do the same on Tuesday morning against Nashville in the Capitals' tourney finale.
 

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