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3 stars of the game: Caps' stars outshine the Lightning

3 stars of the game: Caps' stars outshine the Lightning

Few gave the Caps a chance of beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, but after two games in Florida the Caps now own a two-game stranglehold in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final after a 6-2 Game 2 win on Sunday.

Two bad penalty calls against Washington gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period, but it was all Caps after that.

Washington scored three times in the second period to take a 4-2 lead and added two more in the third period. From there, the blowout was on.

Here are the three stars of the game.

3 Stars of Capitals vs. Lightning Game 2

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov: The most frustrating aspect of Kuznetsov’s game is his reluctance to take shots. He is always looking to setup a teammate rather than call his own number even when he is so clearly the best option.

Well, that wasn’t a problem in Game 2.

Kuznetsov had a very quick trigger finger on what was a three-point night as the Caps tried to keep Andrei Vasilevskiy on his toes. He finished with four shots on goal. An early missed shot by Kuznetsov actually turned into the game’s first goal as it hit off the boards and back to the blue line where Matt Niskanen fired it on net for a Tom Wilson deflection goal.

Kuznetsov also fired a quick pass from the corner very late in the second period that deflected off of Vasilevskiy’s stick into the net with just three seconds left on the clock.

2. Lars Eller: When you first learn to play hockey, one of the things you are always taught is to keep your stick down on the ice. That way you’re ready if the puck comes in your direction. Luckily, Eller was listening and was ready when Jakub Vrana zipped a pass to the slot.

Eller also recorded an assist on Kuznetsov’s goal. Had Vasilevskiy not deflected the puck into his own net, Eller very well could have gotten that goal as he was waiting in the crease for the pass.

3. Alex Ovechkin: There was a lot of talk about Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov coming in, but Ovechkin has overshadowed both superstars in the first two games. He was a big factor again in Game 2 with a goal, an assist, four shots on goal and five hits.

Ovechkin fired a one-timer to finish off a 2-on-1 from Kuznetsov who curled the puck around a diving Anton Stralman.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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