The Capitals made the most of their power-play opportunities in their 4-2 win over the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
All it took was a span of 10 seconds for what was momentarily thought to be a tied game to become a two-goal lead for the Washington Capitals. This short duration was a crucial swing of momentum in the Capitals’ 4-2 win in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Down one goal with 7.5 seconds left in the first period, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov had a partial breakaway and miraculously flipped the puck past Braden Holtby for what he thought would tie the game. But back up ice, the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice and the goal was waved off to put the Capitals on the power play.
Alex Ovechkin scored two seconds later to give the Caps a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. While Washington had two goals, the Lightning had just two shots on goal in the first period.
“Any time you score even in the last minute of a period, it can be deflating to the team that gets scored on because you have to come in here and watch the clock for 15 minutes and think about that goal that just went in that you wish you would have prevented,” said T.J. Oshie, who had two assists on the night.
Jay Beagle extended the Caps' lead 2:40 into the second period when Dmitry Orlov picked the puck up along the boards and Brett Connolly shot it from the slot. Beagle found the loose puck to scoop up and push past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Lars Eller made it 4-0 a few minutes later on the power play when Ovechkin fanned on a shot and Eller picked it up to score. Eller’s goal gives Washington 15 power-play goals so far this postseason.
The Lightning started the third period with Louis Domingue in net after Vasilevskiy gave up four goals on 25 shots through two periods.
Tampa Bay finally figured out Holtby in the third period when Kucherov set up a one-timer for Steven Stamkos on the power play. The Lightning had a spark of energy throughout the final frame and even cut the lead in half when Ondrej Palat went short side on Holtby to put the Bolts within two. But the effort was too late for Tampa Bay, who felt a similar state of defeat in Game 1 of the second round.
"That's a good hockey team over there. They out-played us,” Stamkos said following the game. “In hindsight we were in the same position after the last round and found a way to respond. But it's a missed opportunity."
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
My average springtime sneeze attack takes longer than it did for this game to go from tied up to all Caps. Ovechkin’s goal marked a turning point that Washington ran away with, but it was also an impressive feat. Oshie’s clean face-off win went straight to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who quickly passed it over to Ovi to blast through Vasilevskiy. It took all of two seconds from puck drop to celebration. Sneeze and you’ll miss it.
1. Alex Ovechkin, WSH — Ovi’s goal marked the biggest momentum swing in the game, and it’s worth noting he had just 7.5 seconds on the clock when the puck dropped on that face off. Ovechkin also had an assist on Eller’s goal.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, WSH — Kuznetsov notched primary assists on the first two goals of the night and was overall a consistent playmaker in Game 1.
3. Michal Kempny, WSH — Kempny not only scored the first goal of the game, but he also scored the first playoff goal of his career. Thanks to a few screens in front of Vasilevskiy, Kempny blasted it from the point and straight into the net without the goalie ever getting a chance to see it.
The Jets are coming off a monstrous Game 7 win against the Nashville Predators and have a short turnaround time to start the Western Conference Final. Vegas will likely set a fast pace for Winnipeg in a series that is historic for both franchises. Take a more in-depth look of the Western Conference Final here.