The Capitals rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their round robin opener on Monday, but eventually fell in the shootout in a 3-2 loss. Washington now sits in third place in the round robin standings.
Here's why the Caps lost.
Losing your best defenseman was obviously going to have an effect, but I think this was more about the message than the player. John Carlson has been practicing with the team and, from what we have been told by head coach Todd Reirden, it sounds as if the Caps held Carlson out as a precaution. When you hold a player out as a precaution until the games really matter, then we should not be surprised when the team plays like this game didn’t really matter.
The Caps did well to rally and earn a point, but for the first half of this game they were on cruise control.
A neutral zone turnover and a snipe
Midway through the first period, Lars Eller tried to carry the puck into the defensive zone along the boards, but was immediately hemmed in by two Lightning players. He tried to force a pass, but it was quickly cut off by Brayden Point. He took it into the offensive zone and handed it off to Nikita Kucherov.
Michal Kempny did well to force Kucherov wide, but Kucherov was still able to get a shot away to the far corner with a beautiful snipe.
As good as the shot was, however, the goal was set up by the turnover.
If you want to provide net-front presence in the NHL, take note of Mitchell Stephens' second period goal. As the Lightning cycled the puck, Stephens went from he goal line and parked himself in front of the crease. He had inside leverage over defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler and when the puck came his way, Stephens got his stick down on the ice for the quick redirect past Braden Holtby.
The Caps were not able to beat Tampa Bay's netminder clean all game long. As the Caps took momentum in the second period, they held it pretty much until the end of overtime, but Vasilevskiy was there to deny them. Jakub Vrana had a chance to end the game with an overtime breakaway, but he was denied as the puck began to roll and Vasilevskiy was there for the big save. Vasilevskiy also came up huge against Alex Ovechkin after Ovechkin turned Point inside-out with a curl and drag. It wasn't enough, however, and the Lightning owe their netminder for coming up big in the win.
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