Washington and Tampa Bay faced off in a battle of struggling playoff teams on wednesday night. Both teams had lost two straight heading into this one and needed a morale boost to help propel their teams towards a better playoff position. Washington is fighting to secure their Wild Card position, but are only 6 points behind the Penguins.
Tampa Bay on the other hand has slipped down below the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic division standings and are trying to maintain a non-wild card position in the playoffs. They are tied with the Bruins in points and needed this win to help put a cushion between them.
The game opened up slowly with no shots in the first two minutes, but the Capitals had two good chances in the third minute. The first was a 2-v-2 with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, but they couldn’t finish it, while the second was a shot in the slot from T.J. Oshie.
The Lightning looked a bit slow at first, allowing multiple fast breaks for Tom Wilson and Anthony Mantha in the first four minutes, and registered their first shot about 4:30 into the game. The Capitals continued their relentless pressure and scored on a 3-v-2 with a beautiful pass from John Carlson to Martin Fehervary, who buried it behind Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Capitals caught a break after Ross Colton received a delay of game penalty for firing the puck over the glass. The Capitals would capitalize with a beautiful one timer from John Carlson, securing his second point of the night less than 8 minutes into the game.
Just a minute and three seconds later the Lightning would cut the lead down to just one, thanks to a shot by Nikita Kucherov. His shot snuck past Ilya Samsonov who did not have his stick. The three goals were less than four minutes apart.
Samsonov made up for it just moments later with one of the greatest saves I’ve ever seen. Kucherov and Braden Point were rushing down the ice, and as Point passed to Kucherov, Samsonov dove across the net making a stick save that shot the puck up in the air.
Kucherov grabbed the puck out of the air and put it on the ice, trying to finish his goal. The puck bounced across the crease where Ondrej Palat buried the biscuit to tie the game 2-2… Except the referee declared the play a hand pass from Kucherov, meaning no goal for Tampa Bay.
Alexander Ovechkin would extend the Capitals lead with a wrist-shot goal between Ross Colton’s legs and over Vasilevski’s shoulder. It was Ovechkin’s 43rd goal of the season, 80th point of the season, and the 1,400th point of his career.
AGAIN, only a minute and 21 seconds later, the Lightning cut the lead down to one. Nicholas Paul buried this Tampa Bay goal with an assist from Steven Stamkos. These two teams went back and forth all period, and continued pressuring each other for the final minutes of the first.
This period was absolutely insane and the final minute and a half was no different. Both teams almost scored, including the Capitals from mid-ice on a dump-in that Vasilevski almost didn’t see coming. John Carlson also scored a goal with 5.7 seconds remaining, but the play was overturned after replay due to offsides. The score remained 3-2 heading into the second period.
The second period started slower than the first with no goals in the first 16 minutes of the period. The Capitals had a power play opportunity with 13 minutes remaining that they could not convert on, and Ilya Samsonov made another spectacular save to prevent a shorthanded goal.
The Lightning and Capitals switched off power plays in the middle of this period with each team’s first attempt being unsuccessful. But on the Capitals second power play John Carlson scored once again for his second goal and fourth point of the night.
The Capitals would hold onto their 4-2 lead for the rest of the period and take it into the third frame. Bettors of the over were happy as there were already six goals through the first 40 minutes. Ovechkin had a goal and an assist in the first two frames in addition to Carlson’s four points.
The Capitals got another power play at the beginning of the period and had shots and chances from Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Carlson, and Oshie, but were unsuccessful and could not convert. Tampa Bay would get a chance of their own on the power play five minutes into the period thanks to a hook from Nick Dowd.
The Lightning’s power play this season has been good, but not great, with a 22% conversion rate. Tonight however they started 0-3 and did not convert on this power play attempt. Tampa is 8-9 in their last 17 games and need to finish power play chances if they expect to fight for a third straight Stanley Cup.
Tampa is also 18-3-4 when their fourth line scores at least one goal, but all three guys on said line have scoring droughts of 15+ games. The Lightning need more production from all their lines or else they could be making a first round exit.
Down 4-2 the Lightning pulled their goalie with 5:31 to play to gain a man advantage. They won an offensive zone faceoff and possessed the puck for a minute before drawing another penalty on Nick Dowd. It was a crosscheck from behind, a penalty that the league has been cracking down on.
For the power play the Lightning put Vasilevski back in net and went to work with the man advantage. The first minute or so they couldn’t possess the puck much, but they pulled their goalie with 30 seconds remaining in the power play and scored with 2:50 left in the period. The game was now 4-3, Washington leading.
With just under two minutes to play Tom Wilson got a breakaway and as he entered into the zone, Vasilevski tripped him, giving Washington their fifth power play of the night. After getting a good look, the Capitals lost the puck and as Tampa possessed it, they pulled the goalie once more.
This made it 5 on 5 with a minute to play, Tampa with the empty net. The faceoff was in the Capitals defensive zone, and they cleared it with 45 seconds to play. Tampa regrouped and entered the zone, but were denied by sliding Washington defenders. Washington cleared again and icing was called with 29 seconds left. Tampa needed one more goal to tie and send the game to overtime.
They moved the puck in the offensive zone and drew a hooking penalty on TJ Oshie. The game was now 4 on 4 for the final 13 seconds. The Capitals held onto their lead and ended the game with their first win of April, 4-3 over Tampa Bay.
The Capitals now are within six points of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who they play on Saturday at 3 p.m. Tampa Bay has lost three straight and 9 of their last 15 games and are slowly slipping down the standings. The good news is they only need seven points in their last 12 games to make the playoffs.
Tampa will face Boston on friday, whom they are competing with for the third and final Atlantic division playoff spot. The loser will be in the wild card spot… for now.