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Bad start dooms Lightning to loss in Washington

There are more questions than answers after this game.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson’s game winner powered the Washington Capitals over the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 Wednesday night. The Washington blueliner completed the night with four points including two goals. Alexander Ovechkin picked up a goal and an assist, while Martin Fehervary opened the scoring for Washington (38-22-10). Nikita Kucherov, Nick Paul, and Ross Colton replied for Tampa Bay(43-20-6). Ilya Samsonov made 25 saves for the Capitals, while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 for the Lightning.

After the game Coach Jon Cooper noted that they’ve played a lot of hockey the last few years (and months) but have to fight through it. Prior to the game the question was, “Is this the game the Lightning showed their championship pedigree and actually turned it around?”

Both teams came in looking for a rebound game, and the action was fast and furious. The Capitals had plenty of scoring chances early, but failed to convert even a shot on net.

That changed when Fehervary scored to break the ice on a one-time shot, receiving the puck from a Carlson fake shot-pass - 1-0 Washington. A solid dump and recovery play by Conor Sheary started the tic-tac-toe play.

Carlson fired a rocket from the point on the man-advantage to jump on a quick two-zip lead for the Capitals. Colton was in the box for a delay of game penalty that set up the power-play opportunity.

Kucherov got one right back, 2-1 Washington. The sniper found himself open in the slot from a slow Hedman pass and wristed it by Samsonov.

The referee waived off a goal only moments later from a hand pass which could have tied the game up. Samsonov robbed Kucherov with a diving stick save on a two-on-one. Kucherov followed up with a shot off the post and then a pass in the blue paint for Ondrej Palat to complete, which was disallowed.

With capital momentum Ovechkin went bar-down on the Bolts’ Conn Smythe winning goaltender - Washington 3-1. The Great 8 was able to recover/shoot the puck from a Colton block.

The Lightning climbed back within a goal when Nick Paul wristed a fumbling puck past a stretched out Samsonov - 3-2 Capitals. The newest Lightning’s shot was a stoppable save for the young goaltender.

Another disallowed goal completed the period. Carlson celebrated after he deposited a deflected puck into the empty side of the net. The officials ruled Backstrom had carried the puck just barely offside to reverse the call.

Ovechkin saw it differently.

From the first twenty, Lightning had chances but they didn’t look in control for much of any part.

Was this the time when the weather changed to cloudy with a chance of showers?

The Lightning almost tied the game from a shorthanded rush. Paul got robbed by the Capitals’ goaltender then hit the crossbar on the rebound attempt. Mid-way through the period the Capitals had an open Conor McMichael, who shot it over the net from the slot.

Both teams had chances on a divided power play late in the middle frame. The difference in the game is that the home team converted on their opportunity. Carlson for his second, wristed another point shot past a screened Vasilevskiy - Capitals 4-2.

The referees started calling the game tighter in the final regulation period.

What seemed accidental, a contact play from Colton into Wilson was called interference, early in the period. Washington failed to capitalize. Later Jim Dowd received a hooking infraction, though it wasn’t too harsh of contact.

Coincidental penalties on both Evgeni Kuznetsov and Victor Hedman for slashing were only moments later. Tampa failed to convert with despite Kucherov’s blast. He missed the net wide on the man advantage.

Would Lightning started to turn a corner?

The chances for both teams would keep coming. Eric Cernak beat Samsonov but not the crossbar with a blast off a clean faceoff win. Sheary after getting by the Lightning defenders got stopped by Vasilevskiy on a nifty deke attempt.

Coach Jon Cooper couldn’t get much going in the third, so he pulled Vasilevskiy with 5:31 remaining, and a window opened up with a Capitals cross-checking infraction on Dowd.

Colton redeem himself with a blast from the right faceoff circle to cut the lead to one, 4-3 Capitals.

Lightning’s powerplay wasn’t eventful until that shot.

The Capitals almost iced the game on a breakaway. Tom Wilson had Vasilevskiy all on his own and was taken down by the large stretched out goaltender as he tried to avoid him. No goal, but the netminder was dinged for a penalty. He made up for it when he denied Ovechkin on another breakaway opportunity late.

Vasilevskiy might not have played great overall, but had a terrific final frame.

Are the Lightning running out of power? Has two full long runs halted this the veteran deep team?

The Lightning will return to action Friday evening at home versus Boston at 7 pm EST.

Peter’s 3 Charged Rocks and 3 Stars:

Rocks:

Brayden Point, (MIA)

Brandon Hagel, (-2, MIA)

Steven Stamkos. (MIA)

Stars:

Nick Paul, (goal, all over the place tonight)

Victor Hedman, (assist, 27+ minutes, 4 blocks)

(no one else…)

Notes: Alexander Ovechkin picked up his 1,400th NHL point on his 43rd goal of the season(number 773 in his career). John Carlson had his third career four-point game. Capitals came off back to back huge losses being outscored 11-2, Lightning in similar fashion Ryan McDonagh missed his seventh consecutive game with an upper body injury. Garnet Hathaway did not play due to a non-COVID illness. Captain Steven Stamkos started on a Brandon Hagel-Stamkos-Ross Colton line, moving Ondrej Palat to the top line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, to try to stop his (zero goals in 26 games) slump.