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Ovi's two goals not enough for Caps, team loses to Lightning

Ovi's two goals not enough for Caps, team loses to Lightning

Alex Killorn scored a hat trick and the Tampa Bay Lightning used two empty-net goals to hold on for a 6-3 win against the Capitals at Amalie Arena on Saturday. 

It was the first meeting between the two teams since May 23, when Washington won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final en route to the Stanley Cup. 

The Capitals remain in first place in the Metropolitan Division at 91 points and Alex Ovechkin scored his 47th and 48th goals of the year. Here are five reasons why the Capitals lost. 

Slow start

After a few solid minutes to start the game, one mistake in the neutral zone proved costly for the Capitals. T. J. Oshie lost a puck entering the offensive zone and Tampa Bay was off on the turnover. Nikita Kucherov tipped a pass to Brayden Point who went in on a 2-on-1 with Johnson. His pass beat goalie Braden Holtby for a 1-0 lead at 8:35 of the first period. Just 1:58 later, Killorn banked a bad-angle shot off Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov and past Holtby for the 2-0 advantage. That put the Capitals in an early hole. The Lightning are good enough. They don’t need much luck. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy

The Lightning goalie was on his game from the start. He shrugged aside an Orlov shot early that bounced over his shoulder but was cleared off the line. The Capitals generated more chances in the second period with 13 shots on goal and only Alex Ovechkin’s power-play tally beat Vasilevskiy. He finished the game with 31 saves. A nice stop on a backhanded shot by Lars Eller early in the second period kept Tampa Bay’s lead at two goals. He had another on Jakub Vrana late in the third to keep the lead 4-3. 

Physical play

Much was made of how the Capitals physically dominated the Lightning in the final two games of last year’s Eastern Conference Final. They had their moments on Saturday – especially Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. But Tampa Bay was ready for it this time. Killorn bulled his way to the net against Washington defenseman Nick Jensen and smacked home a rebound at 15:56 of the first period to answer a John Carlson goal and push the lead back to 3-1. Jensen had no chance to keep Killorn off of Holtby. That’s a good sign for the Lightning going into the playoffs. 

Turnovers in the defensive zone

That bit Washington early in the third period when the score was 3-2. Matt Niskanen flubbed a clearing attempt and Tampa Bay pounced. One high-danger shot on Holtby was stopped. But a lost board battle let the Lightning get the puck back to the point. Defenseman Eric Cernak beat Holtby with a wrist shot from the right wing as no one stepped up to stop him. Ryan McDonagh had the primary assist. Holtby might have been screened by a diving Jensen. That made it 4-2 Tampa Bay. The puck was in Washington’s zone for 30 seconds. 

Too little, too late

Ovechkin brought the Capitals to within 4-3 at 12:56 of the third. He was in perfect position when an Orlov point shot caromed to the left of Vasilevskiy. He one-timed the bouncing puck and just like that, Washington had life again. That was also No. 48 for Ovechkin, which leaves him just two shy of his eighth 50-goal season. But Tampa held on down the stretch, including a crucial penalty kill with under five minutes to play and almost three full minutes with a 6-on-5 advantage for Washington,where the Lightning scored twice on an empty net to earn a satisfying victory.  

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Ovechkin-less Caps win in Montreal in return from the All-Star break

Ovechkin-less Caps win in Montreal in return from the All-Star break

With Alex Ovechkin serving a one-game suspension, the Capitals still were able to pull out a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday in the team's return from the all-star break.

The power play contributed a goal despite the loss of Ovechkin and Braden Holby played well late in the game to preserve the win.

Here is how Washington won.

The power play

Coming into Monday's game, the Caps had the 30th ranked power play since Dec. 1 striking at only 14.1-percent. With no Ovechkin, it seemed unlikely that the power play would be able to suddenly find success against Montreal. Yet, the power play looked much improved with crisp puck movement that kept the Canadiens guessing. The puck movement was much quicker and more deliberate than the power play had shown of late which has looked far too slow and indecisive.
Washington cashed in with a goal from Tom Wilson as Jakub Vrana fed him from behind the net and he beat the defense to the slot.

Petry’s second goal

Jeff Petry opened the scoring with a goal for Montreal in the first period. Wilson tied the game at 1, but Petry scored again early in the second period...for the Caps.

Brendan Leipsic tipped the puck behind the net and Lars Eller grabbed it and tried to stuff it. He couldn't. Travis Boyd then tipped the puck in front of the net where Petry was trying to cover the back door to help out netminder Cary Price. Instead of helping, however, he ended up kicking the puck into his own net giving him one goal for each team and giving the Caps the 2-1 lead.

Kuznetsov on his butt

All-star defenseman Shea Weber had the puck in Montreal's defensive zone and was pressured by Evgeny Kuznetsov. In terms of a forecheck matchup, you would have to give the edge to Weber in that situation and nine times out of 10, you'd be right. This time, however, Weber lost the puck behind him with Kuznetsov pressuring. Weber turned and knocked over Kuznetsov to try to get to the puck. On his butt, Kuznetsov still managed to get a stick to the puck, passed it to T.J. Oshie who dropped it off to Jakub Vrana. Vrana netted it for his 23rd goal of the season, but the play was all started by the great forecheck by Kuznetsov.

Holtby's third period

When Holtby is feeling it, he is hard to beat. Protecting the Caps' lead, Holtby was strong in the final frame with 14 saves on 15 shots. The save of the night came when Joel Armia tried to tip a puck past Holtby and succeeded. The puck hit the post and Armia raised his arms to celebrate. Holtby, however, plucked the puck out of the air with the glove before it could cross the line which was confirmed by review.

Holtby had plenty of struggles heading into the all-star break, but was strong in the team's return with 31 saves.

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A response game for Holtby, a butt pass and some power for the power play

A response game for Holtby, a butt pass and some power for the power play

The Capitals made sure the one-game suspension to Alex Ovechkin did not cost them with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Better power play

Even without Alex Ovechkin, the power play looked much improved. The most noticeable improvement was the puck movement.

One of the issues on the power play has been slow and indecisive puck movement. The Caps were much quicker with their passes on Monday and kept the puck constantly moving which kept Montreal guessing.

Washington's power play has focused largely on position over movement which is fine and was productive for several years years. Lately, however, if the passes the players want aren't open, they freeze up with the puck, hold onto it too long, then try to force passes through covered passing lanes. On Monday, each time a player took a pass, the puck was off their stick shortly after. They already knew where the puck was going when they got the puck and quickly moved it not allowing the penalty kill to get set.

The key now will be continuing that puck movement when Ovechkin returns.

A good night for Holtby

If you're going to get all over Braden Holtby for every bad game, you have to give him credit when he has a good one. Holtby allowed only two goals on Monday. The first was a 3-on-2 with Dmitry Orlov and T.J. Oshie playing defense and Orlov misplayed it allowing Jeff Petry wide open in front of the net. The second came as Dale Weiss was also left alone in front of the net. Holtby played it awkwardly coming out to challenge Weiss, but did not extend the pads to try to force Weiss wide and gave him too much room. Still, the defense left him out to dry in both situations.

Otherwise, it was a very strong game.

Holtby made 14 saves in the third period alone and 31 saves overall for a .939 save percentage on the night. It is the first time in eight games he has managed a save percentage over .900.

Turning point

Montreal took a 1-0 lead off a Jeff Petry goal and the Canadiens were all over the Caps to start. Then Washington earned a power play opportunity and, well, it was awful with Ovechkin, surely it would be terrible without him. Instead, Wilson scored to tie the game and the power play looked much improved. Suddenly, the Caps were back in the game.

Play of the game

This is great forecheck work by Evgeny Kuznetsov on one of the best defensemen in the game, Shea Weber. He forced a turnover then made the pass from his butt to set up the goal.

Stat of the game

Lars Eller loves playing against Montreal. He recorded one assist and was one of the Caps' best players on Monday.

Quote of the game

Holtby has had struggles in the past, but he always seems to rebound at some point and return to his dominant self. Todd Reirden called Monday's game a "response" performance for the netminder after his best performance in several weeks.


Fan predictions

Close. The Caps rebounded from a 1-0 deficit and ended up winning 4-2.

Saw a lot of predictions for two goals for Richard Panik who played in Ovechkin's spot on the top line. Panik had two shots on goal, but no points in 12:35 of even-strength ice time.

No goals for John Carlson, but Holtby did have a strong game and the Caps had a two-goal win.

Bold.

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