Capitals Postgame: Caps lose 4-3 to Lightning in the shootout

In our first real taste of hockey since a global pandemic halted the NHL season, the Washington Capitals took the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first of three round robin games.

Washington came out sluggish, with Tampa Bay pouncing on every loose puck. Capitals netminder Braden Holtby turned away most of these chances, but last season’s Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov bested Holtby with an absolute dart that pierced the top right corner of the net to make it 1-0 Tampa midway through the first period. In now the 4th game against Washington this season, Kucherov tallied 9 points (2G, 7A). Washington failed to respond, only registering 4 shots after the Tampa goal.

The second period kicked off with more of the same. Tampa’s aggressive board play and forecheck hemmed Washington in their own zone, and resulted in another goal for the Lightning. Mitchell Stevens, making his first career playoff start for Tampa, deflected a Ryan McDonough shot through Holtby to extend the Lightning lead to two.

The Capitals finally got a break of their own with 3 minutes remaining in the period. Washington defenseman Radko Gudas snapped a puck on net, and it bounced around the crease. Capitals forward Richard Panik deposited the puck in the net to bring the Capitals within one.

The Caps evened the game on the power play with 30 seconds left in the second. Dmitri Orlov hammered a shot that found its way through Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskey, and star center Evgeny Kuznetsov chipped the puck in to tie the game at two.

The 3rd period was a back and forth affair, with both teams playing with a bit of caution. The Capitals had a power play chance late, but could not capitalize, and the first game went to overtime.

Washington dominated the 3-on-3 overtime, with numerous scoring chances. Jakub Vrana had a breakaway with 2 minutes remaining in the overtime, but Vasilevskey stood strong in net, and turned the chance away.

The game could not be resolved in overtime, so this one was decided in the shootout. Tampa’s Viktor Hedman went first, and he was denied by Holtby’s blocker. TJ Oshie went first for Washington and he casually flipped a puck past Vasilevskey to give the Capitals the advantage. Brayden Point went next for Tampa, and he snapped a puck past Holtby to even it up. Kuznetsov was denied by Vasilevskey, and Kucherov gave the Lightning the advantage with a laser that beat Holtby’s glove. Backstrom went last for Washington, but he was stopped with Vasilevskey’s glove.

Washington will take the ice on Thursday against the Flyers. John Carlson missed Monday’s game, and will be a game time decision.

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Austen Adcock

Freelance writer, alumni of the University of Mississippi, hockey and baseball connoisseur

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