The Caps used a terrific first period to set the tone and build a lead, then relied on goalie Braden Holtby when the Lightning made a push. The result was a second straight regulation loss for the Bolts.
Just like on Saturday against Columbus, the Lightning did not play well in the first period – and surrendered an early goal. In fact, the Caps carried play for most of the first 15 minutes, during which they built a 2-1 lead. They spent long shifts in the Lightning zone while the Bolts, with a couple of exceptions, were having “one-and-dones” in the Caps end. (The Lightning goal did come off a good entry into the Caps zone and a Victor Hedman point shot that Brian Boyle deflected in). The Lightning showed signs of picking up their play, though, in the final five minutes of the first – and they carried some momentum into the locker room after the first.
Like they did on against the Blue Jackets on Saturday, the Lightning dictated play for most of the second period. They tied the score on the opening shift, when Steven Stamkos netted his 250th career goal. But a few minutes later, the Caps benefitted from a fortunate bounce in front, as the puck careened to Brooks Laich at the side of the net and he scored into an open cage. It was Washington’s first shot of the period. The Lightning had three consecutive power play chances later in the frame, but couldn’t get the equalizer. The Caps’ penalty kill was very effective on the first two. On the final one, Valtteri Filppula had an open net chance, but his shot hit the post and came out.
During a shift for Tyler Johnson’s line early in the third, the Lightning buzzed around Braden Holtby. They did everything but score – Holtby made a couple of terrific saves and some other chances just missed the net. Later in the period, the Caps pushed back, enjoying their first extended offensive zone shifts since the first period. Halfway through the period, they netted an insurance goal off a three-on-two rush. Following that goal, the Caps clamped down defensively, only yielding a sixth-atttacker tally to Filppula in the closing seconds. (Alex Ovechkin put the puck into an empty net as time expired to set the final at 5-3).
As I wrote on Saturday, we need to credit the opposition for playing well, especially in the first period. The Lightning did not have a lead against either the Jackets or the Caps – and early deficits have played a role in why they’ve had to play from behind for most of those games. For the second straight contest, the Lightning surrendered a power play goal and didn’t score one themselves. Also, for the second consecutive game, the Lightning didn’t benefit from any puck-luck. The first Washington goal came after a Lightning clearing attempt hit the glass and stayed in the d-zone. The second goal, during a Washington power play, resulted from an offensive zone faceoff win following an Anton Stralman clear that ended up just skipping over the boards into the Lightning bench. The third Washington goal came off a fortuitous bounce to Laich. Normally, the Filppula power play chance goes in the net, but instead it hit the post and came out, sliding underneath Holtby (not off of him and in). Bad puck-luck was not the only reason why the game unfolded the way it did, but it was a factor. Still, heading into the final game on the homestand on Thursday against Carolina, the Lightning will look to have a better start. They’ll also look to win the special teams battle and try to take the lead, not play from behind.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Laich’s second period goal, giving the Caps a 3-2 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Braden Holtby – Caps. 33 saves.
2.John Carlson – Caps. Assist. Seven shots.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Three assists.