Before the game, Jon Cooper said that if the Lightning were going to win this game, they’d need to win the special teams battle. The Capitals have, in my opinion, the best power play in the NHL, and regularly scorch the Lightning with power play goals when the teams meet. In the first game between the clubs, the Caps scored three power play goals in a 4-2 win. So it was going to be imperative that the Lightning limit their penalties in this game – and then, if they did take a penalty, find a way to kill it off.
As it turned out, the Lightning could do neither. They took four penalties in the game and again surrendered three power play goals. That part of the game takes away from this fact: this was one of the Lightning’s best five-on-five performances of the season.
Solid five-on-five play helped the Lightning build a 3-0 lead. In the first, they were outshot, 10-4, but they had the better looks. In addition to their four shots on net, they had 14 other attempts that either missed the net or were blocked. Alex Killorn scored the game’s first goal when he took a drop pass from Jonathan Marchessault, danced behind the net and tucked the puck back in on the short side. Defensively, the Lightning didn’t allow the Caps many dangerous looks in the frame – their puck management was solid and they defended well without the puck.
At the start of the second, the Lightning continued to carry play – and they started getting more of their shots through to Braden Holtby. Andrej Sustr jumped in the play off the rush and scored from the right circle. Just over two minutes later, Steven Stamkos snapped a shot from the high slot past Holtby’s stick to extend the lead to 3-0. That was the end of Holtby’s night as Philipp Grubauer replaced him with just under 11 minutes left in the period.
At that point, the Lightning were completely dominating the game. The Caps looked listless – they couldn’t complete passes out of their own zone and they had virtually no time in the Lightning end. But with just under seven minutes left in the period, the Lightning were called for a penalty. Alex Ovechkin scored on the ensuing power play, giving the Caps some life.
A key moment in the third came with nearly eight minutes gone. Vladdy Namestnikov had a point-blank scoring chance, but Grubauer made a lunging save with the top of his right pad. Moments later, T.J Oshie burst down the right wing and rifled a perfect shot over Bishop’s glove. Instead of a Namestnikov goal and a 4-1 Lightning lead, the Caps made it 3-2. And the rest is history. The Lightning took two more penalties and the Caps scored on both, grabbing a 4-3 lead with under six minutes left. They added an empty-netter to set the final at 5-3.
Could the Lightning have done some things better in this game? Yes. They took too many penalties. They struggled on the PK – though one has to give credit to a Washington power play that is the most lethal in the league. Their power play couldn’t get them a goal, going 0-3. And they would have liked to have posted more than seven shots on Grubauer after he came in relief of Holtby. (One explanation for that last stat is that the Caps blocked 21 Lightning shots in the game.)
But I still maintain it was one of their best five-on-five performances of the year. Even when the Caps surged in the third period, they didn’t generate much of an attack. The Oshie goal was their only five-on-five tally (other than the empty-netter) and that goal was the result of a perfect shot off the rush. The Caps, in scoring four times in the third period, only had six shots. For the game, they almost had as many power play shots (nine) as they did five-on-five (13).
Of course, the game isn’t only played five-on-five. So the Lightning must swallow this bitter pill. A game in which they led 3-0 ends in a regulation loss. Fortunately for the Bolts, they won’t have to see the Washington power play again in the regular season. They’ll look to carry the good things they did in this game back to Tampa, where they begin a six-game homestand Sunday versus Ottawa.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
The sequence in which Grubauer made the save on Namestnikov and then Oshie scored moments later.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.T.J. Oshie – Caps. Two goals and two assists.
2.Alex Ovechkin – Caps. Two goals and two assists.
3.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Goal. Five shots. 13 shot attempts