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Burns: 3 things from rallying over Washington

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Monday's come from behind victory over the Capitals

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Tampa Bay faced deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 in the second home game of the season against Washington.

At times, the Capitals threatened to run away with Monday night's contest.

But the Lightning showed their resiliency in coming back to defeat the Caps 4-3 in overtime at AMALIE Arena.

After overcoming a sluggish start, the Bolts finally got rolling midway through the game before dominating the third period and extra five-minute session. Nikita Kucherov netted the game-tying goal with 9:14 to go in regulation, driving to the net with speed and a defender chasing to roof a backhander into goal. Kucherov figured in the game-winner too, blasting a one-timer from the left circle that Brayden Point tipped to win it for the Lightning.

Anton Stralman (2 assists) Alex Killorn (goal, assist), Point (goal, assist) and Kucherov (goal, assist) all finished with multiple points.

And the Lightning got back to playing hockey the right way against a team they haven't had much success against in recent seasons (the Bolts entered having lost seven of their last eight to the Caps).

"It really was a reality check for us," Killorn said of the Bolts' 5-4 loss in Sunrise two nights earlier. "We had a meeting and there were a lot of things we had to do better, especially against Washington. A lot of us were just kind of passengers in those two games. Tonight it seemed like we were skating a lot more and it created a lot more opportunities for us."

The Bolts improve to 2-1-0 on the season and face the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

But before looking ahead to the Pens, let's look at how the Bolts disposed of the Caps in Three Things from rallying over Washington.

Video: WSH@TBL: Kucherov goes top shelf on the backhand

1. ON POINT
Brayden Point appears on the cusp of becoming a star in the NHL

After a promising rookie season when he put up 18 goals and 22 assists, Point has carried over momentum from a spectacular end to 2016-17 as well as his performance at the World Championships over the summer.

Point has started his second season in the league by scoring multiple points in all three games so far. After recording two more points against Washington, he's now tied for the NHL lead for scoring (3-4-7).

On Monday, he scored the game-winning overtime goal on the power play, getting just the slightest of touches on Kucherov's left circle one-timer to send the shot past Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer and into the back of the net, touching off a raucous celebration at AMALIE Arena.

"It's been a quick transition for him, if you think about where he was a year ago today, kind of just an unknown that made the team, especially with all the injuries we had last year, he was by the end of the year he was our No. 1 center," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "You just saw him continue that into the World Championships when he was maybe not looked upon as much to be in the role he was in and then by the end of the World Championships, he was playing a major role on that team.

The Lightning needed to fill the lost offensive production of Jonathan Drouin when the forward was traded to Montreal in the offseason for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

Point, at least early on, seems to be tackling the challenge head on.

"He's a worker, and he's got the blend of the hockey sense and the drive and he works and he works," Cooper said. "Usually those guys succeed."

Video: WSH@TBL: Point tips in game-winning goal in OT

2. EMPTY POWER PLAY SWINGS MOMENTUM

Early in the third period trailing 3-2, Tampa Bay was gifted a power play when the Capitals were whistled for too many men on the ice.

For the following two minutes, the Lightning sent wave after wave of quality scoring chances at Grubauer but couldn't find the back of the net. Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Kucherov all took turns lining up shots against Grubauer to no avail. The Bolts kept the puck in the offensive zone for nearly the duration of the power play. Even after the Caps returned to full strength, Tampa Bay continued to pressure the goal.

The sequence didn't produce the game-tying goal for the Lightning.

But it did swing momentum decidedly in their favor.

"You're throwing tons of shots, those guys are exhausted, their goalie made some good saves but you feel the energy in the building just rise a little," said forward Chris Kunitz, who scored his first goal as a member of the Lightning late in the second period. "When that happens, you get that energy on the bench, and that's how you swing games in your favor."

Heading into the second intermission, Washington held a 19-18 advantage in shots.

In the third period, thanks in large part to the numerous near-misses on the power play and the Bolts' subsequent push, Tampa Bay outshot the Caps 17-6.

The Lightning dominated Washington in the final period and played the right way, which was missing in Saturday's loss at Florida.

The Bolts found their game on Monday, and it was sparked by a power play that was unsuccessful on the scoresheet but had a major impact on the outcome.

"That was by far our best game we've played, if you take the seven preseasons and the two (regular season games)," Cooper said. "It took us 10 games to find ourselves. Now let's not hang our hat on that and say 'okay'. We have a long way to go with this team."

Added Bolts right wing Nikita Kucherov: "What Florida did to us last game I think we did to Washington tonight. I think we played well, and it was fun to be a part of it."

Video: WSH@TBL: Vasilevskiy fends off Chorney's one-timer

3. OVI SHUT DOWN

Caps super sniper Alex Ovechkin entered Monday's contest with seven goals courtesy of a pair of hat tricks and some loose change in the first two games of the season.

Following morning skate, the Lightning talked about what they'd need to do to keep Ovechkin from going off, namely, limit his time and space with the puck and force him to shoot from bad angles.

Anton Stralman cautioned a team can't focus all its efforts on Ovechkin, however, because then Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov will beat you.

A few hours later, Oshie scored a pair of goals on the power play. Backstrom got the Caps on the board with the game's first goal.

But Ovechkin was shut out and quiet all night. And keeping the Caps' star from impacting the game played a big role in Tampa Bay's win.

"We didn't focus on Ovechkin," Kucherov said. "We just tried to play our game and not worry about what's going on with them, try to play the right way and play good hockey."

The Lightning might not have focused on Ovechkin, but they certainly knew where he was on the ice at all times. On the penalty kill, the Bolts shaded toward Ovechkin's office in the left circle, and whenever the puck swung his way, they were quick to close him down and not let him get off his deadly one-timer.

At 5-on-5, Ovechkin was hardly noticeable in the game. The final stat sheet shows four shots for Ovechkin, but he didn't threaten Vasilevskiy's goal all night

Backstrom and Oshie each had three-point nights and nearly took care of the Bolts single-handedly.

But the Bolts were determined not to let Ovechkin beat them and executed their strategy against him to perfection.

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