Michael Finewax

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Dose: Capital Punishment

Monday, May 14, 2018


The Tampa Bay Lightning are in trouble. The Washington Capitals came into the Amalie Arena and have managed to win both games as they knocked off the Lightning 6-2 in Game 2 and are going back to Washington to play Games 3 and 4 up two games to nil.

 

The Capitals did their damage in the second period and more to the point, with 62 seconds left in the frame as Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov beat Andrei Vasilevskiy.

 

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The Capitals got off the mark quickly as Tom Wilson tipped in a Matt Niskanen shot 28 seconds in and it looked like the Lightning were in trouble again after losing Game 1 at home. The goal followed a great save by Andrei Vasilevskiy on Alex Ovechkin but nevertheless Tampa Bay was down early.

 

But the Lightning power play went to work and they were helped by a terrible call by the referee. Brayden Point tied the game at 1 when a Steven Stamkos shot bounced off the skate of Niskanen, right to Point who slapped it home. Tom Wilson was in the penalty box (what a shock!) for interfering with Vasilevskiy.

 

The Capitals got ripped off with their next penalty as T. J. Oshie was called for high-sticking but there was no high-stick as Victor Hedman took the puck and not a stick, to his face as he was unable to catch the puck. I guess they don’t play baseball in Sweden. The Capitals bench went crazy as well as coach Barry Trotz but to no avail.

 

The Lightning capitalized (pun intended) as Steven Stamkos one-timed a Nikita Kucherov pass past Braden Holtby and Tampa Bay led 2-1 after one period.

 

Mikhail Sergachev appeared to get hurt when blocking a Dmitri Orlov point shot at the end of the first but he was back on the ice for his first shift in the second period. Digressing a bit, I don’t understand the management of the Montreal Canadiens. They had two outstanding defensemen in P.K. Subban and Sergachev, a duo that would have been great for years. The toughest thing to acquire in a draft is a top-notch defenseman as they are rare. Montreal had two and traded one for an aging Shea Weber and the other for Jonathan Drouin. The 20-year-old Sergachev made a move in the first to get around a Washington forward that was a move a 10-year outstanding veteran would make.

 

The second period was doom for the Lightning and especially Vasilevskiy. The Capitals tied it up when Devante Smith-Pelly knocked home a beautiful saucer pass from Alex Chiasson at the 2:50 mark of the second. It remained that way until there were 62 seconds remaining in the period.

 

Lars Eller, who has replaced the injured Nicklas Backstrom as the center on the second line, gave the Capitals the 3-2 lead as he tipped in a pass from Jakub Vrana with 1:02 left in the second. Things went from bad to worse less than a minute later as netminder Vasilevskiy took a tripping penalty (I still have yet to see it) with 9.8 seconds to go.

 

Normally with 10 seconds to go, most teams are thinking about their power play to start the third but not the Capitals. Kuznetsov threw the puck in front of the net and it found its way into the cage with 2.7 seconds to go, giving Washington the 4-2 lead.

 

The Capitals upped their lead to three when Alex Ovechkin scored on a pretty two-way passing play with Kuznetsov to give Washington a 5-2 lead. Kuznetsov skated down on a two-on-one and deked the defenseman before passing to Ovie who put the puck into the empty cage.

 

Brett Connolly gave the Capitals a four-goal lead as he put one past the beleaguered Vasilevskiy and he finished the scoring.

 

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for his league-leading 10th win of the playoffs. He has been a pillar of strength since he returned to the cage partway through the second game of the opening round.

 

Vasilevskiy struggled once again as he stopped 31-of-37 shots and has given up 10 goals on 62 shots in the first two games against Washington. He needs to be a lot better if the Lightning want to play another game at the Amalie Arena.

 

John Carlson set a Washington record for defensemen as he picked up his 13th point of the playoffs, beating the mark that was held by Kevin Hatcher and Scott Stevens who each had 12. Carlson also tied the mark in 2016. He also picked up his 69th career point, setting the record for the most points by a Washington blueliner in a playoff career.

 

Victor Hedman has a seven game points streak, the best in Tampa Bay post-season history.

 

Game 3 is in Washington Tuesday. It is a must-win for the Lightning.



Michael Finewax is entering his 13th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.
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