The Lightning and Capitals open their round-robin schedule in a head-to-head match-up. It’s not often that both teams have very similar goals for their game. The Capitals should be looking to mitigate the Lightning offense. The goal for the Lightning is the exact same, they need to show their defensive prowess and break-through the Capitals defense themselves. As Frederik Frandsen pointed out in his Capitals preview; The main weakness for the Caps is their goaltending.
Early on, the Capitals looked very structured defensively and were stopping Tampa from puncturing their defenses. This quickly changed, as the Lightning seemed to get their feet under them and were able to set up their cycle. Not only this, but they were also dominating them, picking the puck right off their stick and moving the puck well. This resulted in the shots being more than doubled, at 9-4, in favor of Tampa as Nikita Kucherov buries one.
Due to a 4-on-3 powerplay in favor of the Capitals, they were able to finish the period on more equal footing, bringing the shot counter up to 9-7 in favor of Tampa. It’s hard to say whether the Capitals actually stepped up their play or if they were just capitalizing on their man-advantage.
Continuing from the first, things start to look fairly even but it doesn’t take long for Tampa to turn the tide. Rush after rush of a brutal onslaught from the Lightning leads to Mitchell Stephens breaking through and tucking a goal past Braden Holtby.
In the latter half of the second period, tempers started to flare, as the frustration from the Caps was boiling over. Garnet Hathaway leveled Cedric Paquette from behind with a big open-ice hit. This caused Mikhail Sergachev to push and shove with him. Not long after, T.J. Oshie shoves Yanni Gourde from behind and pesters him, they finally drop the gloves. At this point, the Caps are desperate to turn the tides of the game.
Luckily for the Caps, their hard work pays off and a shot from Radko Gudas at the point squeaks behind Andrei Vasilevskiy and Richard Panik is there to bang it in. Then, minutes later with the man-advantage and less than 30 seconds to go in the period, Evgeny Kuznetsov bangs in a loose puck and ties the game. Regardless of who was playing better up to this point, the game is 2-2 and the Capitals seemed to have successfully taken hold of the momentum.
In the early stages of the third period, it looked like Washington would carry their momentum, but that wasn’t really the case. It was very much a back-and-forth period, most rushes were stopped before they could do anything of consequence. Then the defending team would start to rush back up the ice and the same thing would happen to them. It slowly started to devolve into a dump-and-chase game where each team would try desperately to catch the other team with their pants down, to no avail. The period continued to be chippy, both teams finishing their checks and being aggressive. Finally, it ended with a big scrum behind the Capitals net.
Quick breakdown, if the game isn’t decided in regulation, it’s the regular season rules. So, the overtime starts with 3-on-3 and the Capitals are dominant. The Lightning get chances, but Washington has all of the momentum, coming close to ending it on a Jakub Vrana breakaway. Later in the period, Ilya Kovalchuk gets a great chance but Vasilevskiy stands tall and shuts him out. That is all for the 3-on-3 portion, there will be no Overtime Heroics in this one. Off to the shootout…
Here are the results below, Tampa shot first, so if you want to read this the way it happened in real-time; Read the first Tampa name, then the first Washington name, then second Tampa name…
Victor Hedman – ❌
T.J. Oshie– ✅
The Capitals were unable to win, but it shouldn’t be seen as a failure. They were able to score greasy goals and comeback from a 2 goal deficit, maintaining their pressure the entire way through this game. They’ll be a formidable opponent against any team and I wouldn’t be confident picking any team to beat them in a series. They also should keep in mind – They spent this entire game without 2020 Norris Trophy Finalist, John Carlson. No official word on when he’s expected to be back but for the Capitals’ sake, hopefully, he’s good to go for the beginning of the first round.
The Lightning should feel really good about this round-robin game. They had a rocky late-half of the second period as they coughed up their lead but they never let it get to them. They didn’t look defeated, they just kept playing and worked as hard as they could. Luckily, they were able to secure a victory in the shootout and give themselves an advantage in the round-robin. Like the Capitals, the Lightning were without a star player as well – Steven Stamkos. It’s unclear when he’ll return but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s within the next week.
3 Stars of the Game
⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Mikhail Sergachev
⭐️⭐️ – Brayden Point
⭐️ – Nikita Kucherov
⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Garnet Hathaway
⭐️⭐️ – Evgeny Kuznetsov
⭐️ – T.J. Oshie
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