After taking down the Atlantic Division leading Boston Bruins on Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s tough home stand continued into Saturday. The Bolts (16-11-4) looked to win three games in a row for the third time this season. The opponent this time? The NHL leading Washington Capitals (23-5-5). Coming into Saturday night, Washington had won seven of its previous eight contests. The last time these two teams squared off, the Capitals won a 4-3 decision in overtime on November 29th. In that game, Tampa Bay saw a 3-1 lead disappear in the third period as Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov lead the comeback for Washington.
Early turnover leads to easy Capitals goal
The Lightning game out with a lot of energy and speed when the puck dropped. The team did an excellent job passing and creating chances with extended zone time early on. Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov was tested within the first few minutes and came up with a few great saves to keep the Lightning off the scoreboard. Mikhail Sergachev nearly opened the scoring, but Samsonov extended his left pad to deny the Bolts’ defenseman’s backhand attempt.
The momentum shifted to the Washington side of the ice just a few minutes later. Jan Rutta, playing a puck behind his own net, lost control when attempting to skate across the goal line. It was a scene that has unfolded too often already this season. The puck ended up on the stick of Nicklas Backstrom who was ready and waiting directly in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy. A quick wrister had the Capitals up 1-0 6:42 into the game.
That goal would lead to an offensive surge for Washington. On the next shift, Vasilevskiy was called upon to stop an Alex Ovechkin breakaway to keep the score within 1 goal. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner answered the bell and stood tall for the remainder of the period.
The closest Tampa Bay came to tying the game was a Kevin Shattenkirk backhand attempt that rode the goal line from one side of the net to the opposite post. The puck rang off the post and stayed out, confirmed by video review.
Power plays come early and often in second period
It didn’t take long into the game’s middle frame for the Lightning to get a chance with the man advantage. At 1:32 of the period, Michal Kempny was sent to the penalty box for roughing. Tampa Bay came close but ultimately a Victor Hedman shot off the post was as close as they came to cashing in. Shortly after, the Lightning found the back of the net. Carter Verhaeghe appeared to have tied the game with his second career goal. However, the goal was immediately waved off by referees. The call was goaltender interference caused by Mathieu Joseph. However, there was no challenge and play continued with the score 1-0, Washington.
The Capitals parade of penalties continued when Nicklas Backstrom shot the puck over the boards from his own zone at 5:03, taking a delay of game penalty. This came as a result of extended pressure and zone time by the Lightning who had Washington gassed and on their heels for a few minutes in their own zone.
This time, the Lightning cashed in. Coming into the zone on an odd man rush, Alex Killorn spun and connected on a pass with Brayden Point. Point chipped the puck past Samsonov to tie the game and get the Lightning on the board.
Tampa Bay benefited from 2 more power plays before the period concluded. Chances came, but ultimately the Lightning only made Washington pay once with the man advantage. Toward the end of the period, Nikita Kucherov took a slapshot by John Carlson off the lower part of his leg. He left the game and did not return.
Mistakes continue to do Tampa Bay in
The first two periods were full of momentum swings and chances at both ends of the ice. A decently balanced game entered the third period deadlocked at 1-1. However, it didn’t take long for Washington to take control early in the game’s final frame. Just under 2 minutes into the period, Kevin Shattenkirk attempted to send the puck up ice out of the Lightning defensive zone to Yanni Gourde. This attempt resulted in a neutral zone turnover as Dmitry Orlov intercepted the pass. Orlov skated in with Richard Panik and Lars Eller. After 2 passes, Eller buried a 1 timer past Vasilevskiy to reclaim the lead for Washington.
Less than a minute later, the Capitals added to their lead. Brendan Leipsic skated the length of the ice with Garnet Hathway and Nic Dowd in a 3 on 2 rush. Leipsic hit Hathaway with a pass and Hathaway cashed in on a backhand shot. The puck was deflected into the net off Vasilevskiy’s stick. The 2 early Washington goals came just 45 seconds apart and had the Lightning facing a 3-1 hole.
Rutta gets one back, but Caps quickly deliver the final blow
The highlight of an overall disappointing 3rd period effort by the Lightning came when Jan Rutta scored his first goal in a Tampa Bay uniform. Set up by Alex Killorn at the top of the circle, Rutta fired a wrist shot past Samsonov to cut the deficit to 2 goals.
Momentum returned to, and stayed with the Capitals at that point.
63 seconds after Rutta’s goal, Washington delivered the knockout punch to the Lighting. With Vasilevskiy substantially out of position, T.J. Oshie converted a wraparound into an empty net to extend Washington’s lead back to 2 goals. With the wind firmly out of Tampa Bay’s sails, Ilya Samsonov stood tall against everything thrown at him down the stretch. Tom Wilson added an empty net goal to give the Capitals a 5-2 win.
Tonight marked another game in which the Lightning had opportunities to take the lead or even win but got in their own way of doing so. Costly turnovers, wasted offensive zone chances, misplayed pucks, and errant passes continue to do this team in. Riding high after a win against the Bruins and a chance to make a statement against the top team in the NHL, the Bolts let this one get away. As a result, they now sit at 16-12-3 on the season. Tampa Bay also lost at home for the 7th time already this season, matching last year’s mark. The Lightning went 32-7-2 at Amalie Arena in 2018-2019.
The Lightning and Capitals will meet once more this season. That matchup comes next Saturday night in Washington, DC.
- Garnet Hathaway – Game winning goal
- Alex Killorn – 1 goal, 1 assist
- Ilya Samsonov – 26/28 shots saved
For post game reaction from players check out our YouTube Channel.
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