This game mirrored several others the Lightning already have played this year. Games in which the Bolts have held the opposition to two or fewer goals, outshot the other team, but failed to score enough goals to win. Again in this game, the Lightning managed only one goal, thanks in large part to the play of the opposition goaltender. Braden Holtby made 35 saves, including 14 in the third period.
In addition to that storyline, however, is another one. The Washington Capitals are regarded by many as the best team currently in the Eastern Conference. Entering this game, they ranked in the top five in the following categories: goals for/game, goals against/game, shots for/game, shots against/game and power play percentage. They can score and they can defend. And they have Holtby, who entered the game tied with Ben Bishop for the league lead in Goals Against Average (1.95).
So the Lightning knew that against the Caps, their margin for error was thin. And there were two key plays that went against them in the opening 40 minutes. Bishop allowed an early goal to Jay Beagle on a play in which Beagle banked the puck in from behind the net. It’s not a shot that normally goes in. Then, in the second period, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a highlight-reel goal – he pulled Bishop out of position as he danced behind the Lightning net, then reversed his direction and tucked the puck back in on the short side. But the play began with a Lightning turnover in the defensive zone, a costly mistake that led to Kuznetsov’s tally.
As a result, the Lightning faced a 2-0 deficit after two periods against one of the top teams in the league. The Caps had not lost a game in which they took a lead into the third. And it turned out the deficit was just too much. The Lightning battled valiantly in the final 20 minutes. They outshot the Caps, 15-1, dominated puck possession, generated numerous scoring chances and did score once. But not twice.
Unfortunately, the injury list grew again for the Lightning. Jonathan Drouin was scratched due to injury before the game and Ondrej Palat was hurt in the first period and didn’t return for the second. We’ll see what the Lightning’s lineup looks like when they begin a three-game trip in Columbus on Monday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Kuznetsov’s second period goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Braden Holtby – Caps. 35 saves.
2.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Goal. 11 shot attempts.
3.Evgeny Kuznetsov – Caps. GWG