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TJ Oshie hat trick sinks Lightning 5-3

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Capitals clinch a playoff berth while the Bolts need to regroup.

Scott Audette/Contributor

Well, at least one team has clinched a spot in the playoffs. Must be nice.

TJ Oshie made sure the Washington Capitals answered their string of five losses in six games in a big way, as he scored a hat trick Saturday night to defeat the playoff-hunting Lightning 5-3.

The Lightning found themselves down two goals quickly as Oshie scored his first two goals in the first period to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.

The first goal came on an early power play, after the Lightning took the worst penalty that there is: too many men. The Capitals spent the entirety of the man advantage in the Lightning’s end, and it almost felt inevitable that someone would score. That someone was Oshie. His second came at the 11:52 mark on a 2-on-1.

At this point, nothing was going right, but the Lightning showed their resolve by dialing up their emotions a notch. It would’ve been easy to cave — we had flashbacks to Thursday’s loss — so give credit to the players for turning it around.

Four minutes later, in a span of 16 seconds, the Lightning stunningly tied the game. The first came on the man advantage with Oshie in the box for high sticking Jake Dotchin. After making the initial save, Holtby gave up the rebound and Nikita Kucherov pounced on the rolling puck for his 100th goal of his NHL career. That’s Kucherov’s 32nd goal of the season, for those keeping count.

Just 16 seconds later, Alex Killorn scored his first goal in ages — showing some pretty good hand-eye coordination as he scores while falling.

With the Lightning taking control of the game, all hell broke loose at the 18:37 mark. The penalties amounted to rough minors for Tom Wilson and John Carlson for the Caps and JT Brown and Greg McKegg for the Bolts.

During intermission, Killorn said the key for the rest of the game was to the stay out of the box. Well, they lived up to that goal in the second period, which went by without a goal and neither team took a penalty. There was still plenty of action, including Killorn being denied from in close, and Andrei Valisevskiy making several good saves on Andre Burakovsky.

The beginning of the third looked much of the same for the Lightning as the beginning of the first. Jonathan Drouin took an “interference” penalty just a minute into the third. Officially, the Lightning killed it off but on the ensuing line change, and the Lightning were standing around for some reason as Matt Niskanen came barreling off the bench, skating into the puck and let a hard shot go from inside the blue line. Justin Williams tipped it, changing the direction of the puck, past Vasilevskiy to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.

A little over two minutes later, with a delayed penalty call, the Lightning again were standing around, which led to Carlson being wide open. 4-2 Capitals.

With Vasilevskiy pulled for the man advantage, Brayden Point won the face-off, and Kucherov loaded and fired — pulling the Lightning to within one with his second goal of the game and 33rd of the season.

With Vasy pulled again though, Oshie walked through the defense and flipped a backhand for the hat trick, sealing the win.

If you’re an optimist who finds the positives in a loss, at least the Lightning put up a decent fight. On the other hand, you can’t help but feel like they gave one away, at a time they have zero room to do so.

With the loss, the Bolts are suddenly on a two-game skid in which they’ve given up five goals in each. The Lightning’s next game is Tuesday against the Coyotes at Amalie Arena.