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Penalty kill perfection leads to overtime heroics for Lightning in DC

Wayne Masut | The Scrum Sports

Heading into their third game of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning knew they needed to tighten up defensively, having allowed 6 goals in each of their first two contests. Andrei Vasilevskiy wanted to be better, and he had a chance to prove himself against one of the league’s all-time greats. Alex Ovechkin and company were the Bolts’ date Saturday in DC. 

The tilt followed a wild 7-6 comeback win for the Lightning to open the two-game road-trip in Detroit on Thursday. Though Tampa Bay’s performance Thursday wasn’t a banner one all in all, they showed they’d do whatever it took to get the two points. That attitude carried forward into this road tangle with the Washington Capitals, in which the penalty kill would prove to be key.

No lamps lit in fast-paced first twenty

The first period saw no goals but a lot of speed. Both teams were stretching the ice and quick in transition. The Bolts got a taste of a dangerous Washington power play early when Alex Killorn was called for hooking. The PK however, was solid, limiting danger and holding the Caps off the board.

The best chance for the Lightning came on a 2-on-1 sequence with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point, and an ensuing one-timer from Ryan McDonagh.

Later, a Killorn wraparound goal was overturned, as the puck went out of play prior to Killorn tucking it home. Killorn seemed to have caught Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek asleep at the switch. After review, though, the puck found the screen before Killorn grabbed it behind the net.

There was no score after the first.

Chances galore for Bolts to start second

While they were unable to capitalize, the Lightning had several quality looks to start the second period. Nikita Kucherov had two himself. First, he forced a turnover in front of the Washington net and just missed the target. Then he would blast a one-timer off a wonderful setup from Victor Hedman but Vanecek shut the door.

The closest Tampa Bay would come was a look for Corey Perry right in the blue-paint, as he came inches away from banging it home.

Contain, contain, combust

Slowing down Alex Ovechkin is paramount to beating the Washington Capitals. It’s also something the Bolts have historically struggled to do. Ovechkin has more goals (49) against the Lightning than any other player in the team’s history.

Andrei Vasilevskiy had his number early in this one, shutting him down twice on the power play. However, in those instances the Lightning were in solid position, as was Vasilevskiy to shut the door.

Shortly after a Lightning power play expired however, late in the period, Ovechkin had far too much time and space and eventually the proverbial ‘Lightning Killer’ made them pay, wiring it past Vasilevskiy to make it 1-0 Capitals.

He would come very close to scoring a second by overpowering the Lightning net-minder with a rocket, but Vasilevskiy pulled it off the goal-line with his glove.

The Capitals would settle for a 1-0 lead after two. In a period controlled mostly by the Bolts, a late Ovechkin flurry gifted the Caps a lead.

Cycle game draws Bolts even early in the third

To start the third period, the Caps barely touched the puck. The Lightning had it on a string inside the offensive end and eventually Mikhail Sergachev buried one, just inside the post. It was a huge tying goal for Tampa Bay  with 15 minutes left in the frame.

Penalty kill a saviour for Lightning late

The penalty kill finished the night 4/4 for Tampa Bay, a promising sign early in the season, as it lost some usual customers over the offseason. No two kills were bigger than the two that came late in the game and in overtime, as regulation solved nothing in this one. Ovechkin had countless looks between the two power plays but Vasilevskiy was able to stand his ground and come up huge, as did the penalty kill, all night long.

The captain with seconds to spare

With just 15 seconds remaining in OT, Steven Stamkos had Victor Hedman joining on an odd-man rush. He decided shot, and made no mistake, absolutely rifling it past Vanecek to lift the Bolts to victory.

The Lightning move to 2-1-0 on the season and will face their next test Tuesday night when they take on the Panthers at home. Keep an eye on Nikita Kucherov’s status, as he left this game with what looks to be a lower body injury.

Our three stars of the game

  1. Steven Stamkos: Goal and an assist (GWG)
  2. Alex Ovechkin: Simply all over the ice, and scored the Caps’ only goal.
  3. Mikhail Sergachev: Sergachev scored the Lightning’s opening goal and had some critical plays and shot-blocks. A solid game, despite what could have been a costly penalty in OT.

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