There was a night and day difference between this game and the opening weekend contests against the Florida Panthers. The Lightning, through a hard-working, spirited performance, were able to dictate play for most of the night. Their puck management, which was especially poor in the first two games, was crisper tonight and, as a result, the Lightning cut down on turnovers. With more puck possession, the Lightning had more opportunities to shoot and they did display a shooting mentality. They fired 40 shots on net and had 83 total attempts (as compared to 26 shots on net and 48 attempts for the Caps).
So the Lightning played a lot better than they did over the weekend. The fact that they were able to rally for an overtime victory made their performance all the more satisfying.
Even in the first period, a frame in which the Lightning fell behind 2-0, the Bolts showed more determination to retrieve pucks and limit turnovers. They had the majority of the puck possession in the first. But they couldn't effectively translate that possession advantage into a high volume of scoring chances. The Caps, on the other hand, despite less possession time, had some great scoring opportunities. Andrei Vasilevksiy denied a Washington breakaway and a four-on-one rush to keep the game scoreless. But Nicklas Backstrom scored off a rush chance before T.J. Oshie tipped in a John Carlson shot during a Washington power play.
The Lightning's possession advantage continued into the second period. The big difference was they started generating a healthy number of Grade-A scoring chances themselves. Some came off the rush, others off extended offensive zone shifts. Following a Washington turnover in the neutral zone, Braydon Coburn fed Brayden Point into the offensive zone. He passed to Alex Killorn, who snapped a quick shot from the slot into the top of the net. Washington's lethal power play answered later in the frame, but the Lightning kept pressing the attack. Chris Kunitz's first goal with the Lightning cut the deficit back to one before the period ended. It came on a tip of an Anton Stralman shot. But the play started with Kunitz, Ryan Callahan and Cedric Paquette forechecking well, taking the body on the Caps defenders and forcing an offensive zone steal.
After allowing power play goals to the Caps on Washington's first two chances, the Lightning did kill off the Caps' final two opportunities. One came when the score was still 3-1. The other just after Kunitz's goal. The Bolts seemed to gain momentum from both kills. On the final one, Vasilevskiy made two key saves to keep the score 3-2. The Lightning also got a boost from a strong power play chance of their own early in the third. While they didn't score on it, they posted six shots during the chance. Eventually, Nikita Kucherov tied it with a highlight-reel goal off the rush. He maneuvered around defenseman Taylor Chorney and put a backhand into the top of the net with 9:14 left in the third.
Those final minutes were frenetic ones, as both teams had looks to regain the lead. But the Lightning still held an edge in play and ended up outshooting the Caps, 17-6, in the third. In overtime, after Washington took a too many men on the ice penalty, Kucherov's left circle one-timer deflected off Point and into the net.
This was a complete performance, one they'll need to replicate on Thursday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Kunitz's goal late in the second period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Goal and assist.
- T.J. Oshie - Capitals. Two goals and assist.
- Alex Killorn - Lightning. Goal and assist.