Trailing 1-0 in Game Four against the Washington Capitals, the Tampa Bay Lightning needed a break. And they got it in the form of an errant Michal Kempny pass. From there they turned it into the game-tying goal with a little bit of slick passing.
It all starts with a bad decision by Kempny. Yes he’s under pressure but he has a couple of choices when he receives the puck.
He can send it directly across the ice, it would force John Carlson to receive it on his backhand, but he has time to adjust. Kempny could also chip it behind the net or wrap it back around past Andre Burakovsky and hopefully out of the zone.
He went with a slightly more ambitious play, a blind backhand pass to Carlson’s forehand.
Which he missed by a good two feet. Even if he connects with the pass, Carlson isn’t going to have much time to do much with the puck. The blurry player in white at the top left corner is Tyler Johnson who read the wayward pass perfectly.
Now the Capitals are caught out of position. Jay Beagle is out of the zone and out of the play as he was anticipating a rush the other way. Carlson is flat-footed and out of reach of Johnson. Burakovosky realizes that there is trouble brewing and he has to choose between Johnson streaking to the net or staying back to defend Yanni Gourde. He decides the player with the puck is the greater danger and heads to cut off Johnson.
On the other hand, the Lightning forwards are in perfect position. With their heads up and the play in front of them they are able to transition from their forecheck to attack in seconds. Yanni Gourde drifts to the center of the ice while Brayden Point sets up shop in the circle. Johnson can shoot or pass to Gourde. He elects option two, which sets up two options for Gourde. Shoot or pass. Kempny is back in the play and eager to make amends.
Gourde doesn’t hesitate and sends it back across the ice to Point. Kempny isn’t able to get a stick on it and Braden Holtby who had to front Gourde in case of a one-timer has to lunge desperately back to his right in hopes of getting a piece of equipment on Point’s shot.
The young centerman does a nice job of flipping a rolling puck on net. He knew time was of the essence and he just needed to get it heading towards the back of the net. Coach Cooper has referred to this line as his “water bugs”. All three players are quick, tenacious and able to read the play and make quick decisions.