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Vasilevskiy struggles, Capitals thrive in Game 1 win

The Capitals, without Nicklas Backstrom, dominated the Lightning to take the 1-0 series lead. Alex Ovechkin scored the momentum-swinging goal in the first period while the road team chased Andrei Vasilevskiy from net.

It’s not like Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t warn everyone.

The man is tired. He said so himself.

It’s been two months since he revealed his fatigue as a first-year No. 1 netminder in the NHL. We didn’t see it in the first round, where Vasilevskiy was solid -- like the Vezina Trophy finalist that he is. But it crept up and back into his game at times in the second round. Game 1 against the Boston Bruins was regrettable, and then the Bruins forgot how to score, so he was sort of left off the hook.

The Washington Capitals did not forget how to score, even without Nicklas Backstrom. Instead, they gave Vasilevskiy his second straight thumping in a Game 1 in these Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Capitals cruised to a 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night.

And the only hook in Game 1 was the one Vasilevskiy got during the second intermission -- the first time he’s been sent to an early shower in the playoffs -- after allowing four goals on 25 shots.

Washington jumped out to a 1-0 lead within the first 7:30 of the game. Nikita Kucherov appeared to have scored not long after, but the Lightning were instead called for too many men on the ice. Five seconds into the ensuing power play, Alex Ovechkin did what he does best, scoring on a rocket on the power play to double the lead.

By the end of the second frame, it was 4-0. And despite a bit of a comeback attempt from Tampa, who scored twice in the final period, the game never really looked out of Washington’s control.

Tampa killed off just 58.3 percent of power plays against Boston and allowed two more power play markers on four chances to Washington. That needs a large improvement in a hurry for the Lightning to have success in this series. They’ve already given up home-ice advantage due in part to that.

There was no we-beat-Pittsburgh-finally hangover for the Capitals, meanwhile. They looked like an inspired team that finally can see the light after the dark cloud dissipated.

Ovechkin finished with a goal and an assist and secondary scoring came by way of Jay Beagle, Michal Kempny and Lars Eller, something the Capitals will need to lean on if they’re to head to the Stanley Cup Final.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 is slated for Sunday 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck