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.
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.
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.
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.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: