The Tampa Bay Lightning returned to their 11-forwards/7-defenseman combination for the game against the Washington Capitals. Carter Verhaeghe was scratched and replaced by Luke Schenn who returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for several games. Andrei Vasilevskiy was given a day off and Curtis McElhinney led the team on the ice in Washington.
The Capitals started the game pretty aggressively. They controlled the puck for most of the time in first five minutes, although the Lightning were very careful in front of their net and didn’t allow a lot of dangerous shots. After four minutes, the Caps got their first power play of the game when Steven Stamkos jumped on the ice a little bit early and the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice.
The Caps continued to push on the power play, but Curtis McElhinney was brilliant and kept the game scoreless. A couple of heavy shots by John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin also went wide of the net.
As the game continued, the Lightning still struggled to get into the opponent’s zone. They got their first chance after Pat Maroon made a long pass through the neutral zone to Nikita Kucherov, but he was covered by Jonas Siegenthaler. A little bit after, the Lightning went to their first PP when Alex Ovechkin was called for hooking on Brayden Point. Just like Curtis McElhinney before, Braden Holtby was solid during that PP. He made great stops after Victor Hedman’s and Steven Stamkos’ shots and the Lightning couldn’t capitalize from their advantage.
The Caps kept controlling the game at 5-on-5 situations in the second half of the first period. With three minutes to go, Mitchell Stephens was called for high sticking and gave the Capitals their second PP of the game, which was interrupted when Victor Hedman drew a penalty and the Bolts ended the first period on their own PP.
The Lightning started the second period on the PP. On the most dangerous chance they got, when Kucherov hit the post shooting from the right circle. But the Caps eventually escaped from the penalty kill. The second period mostly went on the same scenario as the first one: the Bolts couldn’t do a lot on the 5-on-5, but were pretty good defensively, despite allowing a lot of shot attempts by the Washington Capitals. Just when it started to seem like the Bolts found their game, they allowed a goal by Radko Gudas. The former Bolt shot the puck from the blueline, it was tipped off Ryan McDonagh, and McElhinney couldn’t stop it - the Capitals got a 1-0 lead.
With five minutes to go in the second period, the game became a little bit more intense. Anthony Cirelli found himself in front of Braden Holtby’s net after a rush started by himself in the Lightning defensive zone with help by Stamkos. But it also caused a couple of dangerous situations on the Lightning end. Garnet Hathaway had a couple of good chances but was denied by McElhinney.
Through the second period, the Lightning were outshot by the Capitals 41-24 by overall shot attempts.
The Lightning seemed more confident as the third period started. They controlled the puck more than in the previous periods and started creating chances at 5-on-5. Brayden Point had one of the best chances of the night, shooting from the slot, but Holtby stopped the puck. The Bolts continued pressure on the opposing net and Nikita Kucherov scored an equalizer after Ondrej Palat’s assist with 10 minutes to go. That was the 200th career goal for Nikita Kucherov. A little bit later, the Lightning got another power play opportunity as Nick Jensen was sent to the penalty box and then Lars Eller joined him for delaying the game. It was the second time during the season when the Bolts went on a 5-on-3 power play. Unfortunately, the Lightning couldn’t convert their chances, despite putting big pressure on Holtby’s net and allowed another goal a couple of minutes later. This time, Dmitry Orlov was left alone behind the left circle and Curtis McElhinney coudn’t see where the puck went.
The Lightning pulled McElhinney with three minutes to go, but it didn’t help. Nic Dowd scored an empty-netter and the Washington Capitals won the third game of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning were outplayed for the first two periods. They didn’t create a lot of chances at even strength before the third period, but were pretty decent defensively, not allowing a lot of high dangerous shots on their own end. The power play units didn’t work out as would be expected. The Bolts had seven PP opportunities but couldn’t convert any of those despite Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman each spending about nine minutes on the power play. Curtis McElhinney had a great night and made 32 saves during the game, but the offense didn’t support him.
Radko Gudas (Lars Eller, Jonas Siegenthaler) : 1-0 (Capitals)
Nikita Kucherov (Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point): 1-1 (Lightning)
Dmitry Orlov (Jakub Vrana, Evgeny Kuznetsov): 2-1 (Capitals)
Nic Dowd (Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov): 3-1 (Capitals)