On Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals played an entertaining, low-scoring, back-and-forth game that ended when Steven Stamkos wristed a shot past Caps goaltender Vitek Vanecek in overtime for a 2-1 Lightning victory. It is the second overtime win for the Bolts on this two-game road trip. Alex Ovechkin (of course) and Mikhail Sergachev scored the other goals in the game. Andrei Vasilevskiy returned to form stopping 32 of 33 shots he faced.
After playing a couple of less than respectable defensive games, the Bolts managed to hold the Capitals to just the one goal despite facing four Washington power plays. That being said both teams were able to move up and down the ice throughout the game and there were a total of 113 shot attempts between the two teams.
Kudos to Vasilevskiy and Vanacek for holding the line as two talented teams traded momentum back and forth throughout the game. The overtime period was highly entertaining as the Caps had seven shot attempts, thanks in large part to a power play after Mikhail Sergachev was sent off for crosschecking. Tampa Bay was able to regroup after the penalty kill despite icing the puck just when it expired. They eventually cleared the puck out of the zone when Stamkos jumped on a loose puck and streaked into the zone on a two-on-one with Victor Hedman. The Captain never looked to pass as his head was up and focused on goal the whole way.
The elation from the victory was tempered a bit by an injury to Nikita Kucherov. Midway through the third period he tried to hit or sidestep Garnet Hathaway and immediately pulled up short. He was in obvious pain as he tried to work his way to the Lightning bench (even getting some helpful pushes from the Caps on their bench) and went straight to the dressing room. Kucherov didn’t return to the game.
From the get-go it was obvious that this would be a back-and-forth game as the Lightning had a few chances early, but the Caps responded in kind. While Washington had the advantage in regards to shots on goal (9-4) at 5v5, unblocked shots were even at 11-11. The Lightning were getting the quality chances as they posted 6 high-danger chances to Washington’s 1.
It looked like the Lightning had taken their first lead in regulation of the season when Alex Killorn batted in his own rebound. After a review, it was determined that his initial shot actually went out of play behind the net and hit the netting before bouncing back into play. The goal was disallowed and the teams went to the intermission tied at zero.
The Bolts came out really strong in the second period and for 95% of the period they controlled the play. The Brayden Point/Nikita Kucherov/Ondrej Palat line looked especially saucy as they generated several chances throughout the twenty minutes. Both teams had power play chances but were unable to convert. The Lightning did have some nice puck control with the first unit during their skater advantage, but couldn’t really get any good looks at the net. For the Caps, most of their special teams strategy, as it has been for more than a decade, was to get the puck to Alex Ovechkin (who led all skaters with 8 shots on net). A willingness to block shots and some sharp moves by Vasilevskiy kept him from scoring on the power play.
Despite playing well for roughly 18 minutes in the middle frame, the Bolts got caught puck watching just a little towards the end of it. After the puck was kicked around a little in the Bolts’ zone, Ovechkin grabbed it, skated to the middle of the ice where he used Victor Hedman as a screen and wristed a goal past Vasilevskiy. Sometimes you have to respect the ability of the other team.
It looked like the future hall of famer had his second goal right after as he pumped a shot off of the post that ricocheted off of Vasilevskiy and towards the goal line. The goal light went off, the music played and the Capitals celebrated. After review, however, Vasilevskiy was able to stop the puck from fully crossing the goal line. That goal was also overturned. The period ended with the Caps only having a one-goal lead.
Once again, the Bolts pressured Vanecek early in the period and four minutes into the final frame Mikhail Sergachev tied it with his first goal of the year. The key to the goal was actually made earlier in the sequence when Sergachev was able to keep the puck in the zone not once, but twice and the Lightning were able to cycle it around. Erik Cernak fed it down low off of the end boards and Stamkos bumped it back to Sergy who fired off of his back foot and past Vanecek.
Both teams had chances to score but the goaltenders held their ground. Vasilevskiy in particular made a nice sliding save to deny an Ovechkin one-timer. Ondrej Palat was whistled for a penalty with under five minutes to play and the Caps really poured on the offense, but weren’t able to get one past Vasy.
In overtime, the blood pressure of Lightning fans spiked again when Sergachev was sent off for crosschecking. The Caps forced the issue for almost the entire 4-on-3 time frame. Anthony Cirelli made a heads up play shorthanded after getting his stick knocked out of his hands. He fell to the ice and swatted the puck out of the zone with his glove to kill off a few seconds.
With the teams back to three-on-three, Pierre-Edouard Bellemere tied up his Washington counterpart, allowing Stamkos to jump on the loose puck. He skated it up ice and blistered a shot into the back of the net for the victory.
The Bolts pick up all four points on the road trip and have a couple of days off before taking on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at home.
Alex Ovechkin (Trevor Van Riemsdyk) 1-0 Capitals
Mikhail Sergachev (Steven Stamkos, Erik Cernak) 1-1
Steven Stamkos (Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare) 2-1 Lightning