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Mikhail Sergachev’s four-point night propels Lightning past Capitals, 6-3

Mikhail Sergachev scored twice and added two assists in the first period as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Washington Capitals, 6-3, in their rematch from Friday night. Nikita Kucherov, Nick Perbix, Cole Koepke, and Nick Paul also found the back of the net for the Lightning as the team ended a two-game losing streak. Andrei Vasilevskiy had another decent, if somewhat unchallenged, night as he stopped 19 of 22 shots.

Injuries forced some changes on defense as Cal Foote and Erik Cernak were out of the line-up. The team started with Ian Cole on a pairing with Victor Hedman while Haydn Fleury and Philippe Myers paired up on the third line. Coach Cooper did not mess with the Mikhail Sergachev/Nick Perbix combination that has played well over the last month. He did make a change on the forward lines as Cole Koepke dropped to the fourth line and Corey Perry took his place on the third line.

First Period:

Coach Cooper wanted his team to play better at 5v5. They did that as they built up a 11-3 advantage in shot attempts and a 5-2 lead in scoring chances in the first 8 minutes of play. Oh yeah, they also scored a goal.

Sometimes it’s the easiest plays that mean the most. Steven Stamkos retrieved the puck behind the net and cycled it back to Mikhail Sergachev. All Sergy did was throw it to the net. Darcy Kuemper never saw it until he dug it out of the back of the net. A nice screen was set by Nick Paul and the puck did hit off of a Capital.

Mikhail Sergachev (Steven Stamkos, Nick Perbix) 1-0 Lightning

Their second goal needed no screen. After failing to pick up a power play goal in their previous match-up, they wasted little time in converting on Sunday night. Kucherov blasted a one-timer from the right face-off dot past Kuemper to make it 2-0. Some dogged pursuit and a puck battle won led to the open space for Kucherov to get that shot off.

Nikita Kucherov (Mikhail Sergachev, Brandon Hagel) Power Play, 2-0 Lightning

Again, keep things simple and good things might happen. The Lightning have struggled to get the third goal in games and extend leads. A couple of lucky bounces on a Sunday night changed that. Perbix fired a pass from the half-boards and it hit John Carlson’s stick and Erik Gustafsson’s skate to deflect past Kuemper for the 3-0 lead before Vasilevskiy had to to make a save.

Nick Perbix (Alex Killorn, Mikhail Sergachev) 3-0 Lightning

Even a two-minute power play for the Caps with Victor Hedman in the box failed to generate a shot on net. Not only did the Lightning prevent a shot on Vasilevskiy, they didn’t allow an attempt. Perhaps some frustration crept into the visiting team’s game as Garnett Hathaway hacked Vlad Namestnikov’s stick out of his hands shortly after their power play ended. That’s a penalty.

And that’s a power play goal. Sergachev from the top of the slot. Nice feed by Stamkos as Brandon Hagel occupied the vision of Kuemper. It was another puck he didn’t really see. He would get plenty of opportunity to watch the puck from the bench as Charlie Lindgren replaced him in net.

Mikhail Sergachev (Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov) Power Play, 4-0 Lightning

With 2:50 left in the period, the Caps finally got a shot on net off the stick of Alex Ovechkin. Vasilevskiy made the save. He also kicked out a booming shot from Anthony Mantha on a two-on-one. It’s not always to stay sharp in a period in which there was such little activity. The period ended with Pat Maroon and Matt Irwin in a tussle.

The Lightning finished with a 12-3 lead in unblocked shot attempts, a 9-3 lead in scoring chances, and a 5-0 lead in high-danger chances. They also posted an 89.44% expected goal for percentage. As impressive as the offense was, holding the Capitals to just four shot attempts total (including the power play) probably made their coach smile the most.

Second Period:

The Lightning did have to kill a penalty to start the period (Maroon picked up a roughing along with the fighting major) and it wasn’t as clean as the first one as Washington did actually get a shot attempt off, but it didn’t make it onto net. A third power play midway through the period finally resulted in a shot on net for Washington. Tampa Bay’s shorthanded units were absolutely clean in clearing the puck and aggressive at the blue line.

A high-stick penalty by Alex Ovechkin on Stamkos evened up the power play opportunities for the Lightning. Brandon Hagel and Stamkos had chances on the first half of the power play, but much like the five-minute major on Friday, their effectiveness waned as the advantage lingered on. At least they didn’t give up a goal right after it ended.

They waited a minute or so. On a delayed penalty there was a mix-up in coverage that led to a 2-on-1 for Washington. Evgeny Kuznetsov was able to slide the pass past Hedman and Conor Sheary swept it past Vasilevskiy.

Conor Sheary (Evgeny Kuznetsov) 4-1 Lightning

Much like at the end of the first period, things ended with a little wrestling. This time Irwin paired off with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Pat Maroon picked up another roughing call as he took offense to a hit Hathaway laid on Koepke.  The advantage for Washington was quickly nullified as Dylan Strome had to hook Hagel to prevent a scoring chance.

Things were a little closer at 5v5 that period as the scoring chances were even at 4 a piece, but the Lightning had a few more unblocked shot attempts (10-4). In context, considering they had a four-goal lead, it was a solid period.

Third Period:

Kucherov had a penalty negated by the Washington goal in the second period, he wasn’t so lucky to start the third when he was whistled for hooking. Despite a big shot from Ovechkin that caromed off of Vasilevkisy and almost out of the zone, it was another solid kill for the Lightning.

The Lightning didn’t intend to cruise to victory despite being up three goals. The fourth line produced chances from Maroon and Myers, and Stamkos rattled one off of Lindgren’s glove a few minutes later. Complete 60-minute efforts have been rare for the Bolts this season and they were determined to close the week out with one.

Another Washington power play interrupted their strong 5v5 play, but the Lightning killed killed off with the same ease they defended the previous five. Coach Cooper won’t like that they took six penalties, but he will like how they executed them.

As the Caps put on a bit of a push midway through the period, the Lightning held them to limited chances, recalling memories of their previous years’ runs where a team would get one chance and that was it.

It looked like Koepke would finally get off the schneid as he twirled a shot onto an empty net. While he beat Lindgren it didn’t beat the pipe.  Or did it?

It did!

Cole Koepke (Brayden Point, Pat Maroon) 5-2 Lightning

Brandon Hagel appeared to score a few seconds later to send the home crowd into a tizzy. However, a quick review showed that Koepke did indeed put it into the net. Heck of a way to score your first, kid.

After Point almost put one in, Lars Eller beat Vasilevskiy cleanly to make it 5-2.

Lars Eller (Marcus Johansson, Trevor Van Riemsdyk) 5-2 Lightning

Was the scoring done? Nope. How about an empty net goal from Nick Paul (assisted by Alex Killorn)? That made it 6-2, but a turnover in the neutral zone led to one more goal from Washington, this time it was Hathaway with the tally.

Garnet Hathaway (Nic Dowd) 6-3 Lightning

Not the way they wanted to end the game, but overall a really solid effort after three pretty subpar games over the last week. Even with Washington needing to press in the final period, the Bolts still controlled 5v5 play with a 12-9 third period advantage in scoring chances and a 53.58% edge in xGF%.

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