The Capitals scored five unanswered goals in their 6-2 Game 2 win, and have a 2-0 series lead over the Lightning.
The Capitals didn’t get mad, they got even.
After getting hit with a pair of iffy-at-best penalty calls in the first period that the Tampa Bay Lightning turned into a 2-1 lead, the Caps fired back, reeling off five straight goals en route to a 6-2 win that gave them a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final.
Tom Wilson opened the scoring just :28 into Game 2, but soon found himself in the penalty box for goalie interference a few minutes later, a call that could have just as easily gone to Lightning forward Chris Kunitz for hooking on the play. Tampa Bay capitalized on the man advantage, with Brayden Point pouncing on a loose puck to tie things up. A phantom high-sticking call on T.J. Oshie once again put Washington on the penalty kill—replay showed it was the puck that hit defenseman Victor Hedman in the mouth—which allowed the Lightning to take a 2-1 lead on Steven Stamkos’s power play goal.
Instead of packing it in, the Capitals came out of the locker room for the second period with some vengeance in mind, and got it quickly. Devante Smith-Pelly knotted the score at two at 2:50, snapping a one-time pass from Alex Chiasson past goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and giving Washington a boost as it consistently bombarded the Bolts throughout the stanza. The Caps took the lead for good on Lars Eller’s tip-in at 18:58, and Evgeny Kuznetsov added some breathing room with a buzzer-beating goal on the man advantage that went off Vasilevskiy.
The goal, which came with less than three seconds left on the clock, was the Caps’ 12th in their last 14 tries.
“We try and execute our plan.” Kuznetsov told NBC’s Brian Boucher. “Early in the game, we had a couple of penalties, they scored on the power play, but you can see this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's all about the power plays.”
Washington kept on rolling in the third, with Kuznetsov dangling around a sliding Anton Stralman and sliding a pass through the slot to Alex Ovechkin, who finished for his 10th goal of the postseason 3:34 into the period. Brett Connolly made it a 6-2 score with an off-balance shot that caught Vasilevskiy off guard to cap the scoring at 12:57.
On the night, Eller finished with three points while the line of Kuznetsov (1-2-3), Ovechkin (1-1-2) and Wilson (1-1-2) combined for three goals and seven points and have proven hard to slow down.
“Overall, it doesn't matter against who you play in the playoffs,” Kuznetsov told Boucher, “you should focus on your game and I feel like we helped each other, we shared the puck and most important we backcheck and we block the shots. That gives you results.”
Goalie Braden Holtby, who surrendered power-play goals to Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, made 33 stops on the night, giving him 52 saves on 54 shot through two games.
Vasilevskiy, on the other hand, found himself under siege throughout the game, stopping 31 of 37 shots and facing a number of odd-man rushes. The game marked the third time this postseason and second time already this series he’s given up at least four goals, all of which have been losses. Despite the struggles in the ECF’s opening games, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper isn’t concerned about his No. 1 goalie.
"He’s our guy. The chances we're giving up, it's that five-man unit in front of him," Cooper said. "That's it for me. You have a choice of the guy going over the boards in any situation, it's Vasilevskiy. He's not been an issue."
The Capitals maintained their road dominance, winning away from home for the seventh time in eight tries this postseason. Improving on that mark would set a franchise record, but it will have to wait as the series heads to D.C. for Game 3 on Tuesday.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Kuznetsov’s inside-out move to get around Anton Stralman is pretty enough on its own, but the subsequent pass through the slot and finish from-who else? Ovechkin made this a loop-worthy clip.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov, WSH - His second-period goal let the rest of the air out of Amalie Arena, while his helper on Ovechkin’s tally was plenty cheeky.
- Alex Ovechkin, WSH - Ovi notched his eighth multipoint game of the 2018 playoffs, leading the Capitals to a 2-0 series lead on the road.
- Brayden Point, TBL - He got the Bolts on the board by being tenacious on loose pucks, and then added a helper on Steven Stamkos’ PPG. He led Tampa Bay with a four SOG, too.
The Winnipeg Jets wasted no time asserting themselves in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, putting the Vegas Golden Knights on their heels en route to a 4-2 win. "We came out flat-footed and they came out flying," said defenseman Deryk Engelland. "We knew they were going to. I think we maybe sat back and watched a little too much and they took it to us." Jets blueliner Dustin Byfuglien opened the scoring at 1:05 of the first period, and added an assist while making his presence felt in all three zones. The Golden Knights will have to find a way to neutralize Big Buff in Game 2 on Monday, as well get a bounce-back effort from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury following his worst game of the postseason—all while playing in front of a raucous Winnipeg crowd. Whatever Vegas does, it’ll have to figure things out quickly, otherwise they’ll head home in an 0-2 hole.