The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Washington Capitals 5-4 in overtime on Wednesday night at the Capital One Arena, despite being outplayed in the overall stat line.
It was “all Caps” – as they say in D.C. – in the first period, as they outshot and outhit the Bolts 15-5 and 15-4, respectively. The Lightning were lucky to come out of the first 20 minutes only down 1-0. But boy oh boy did Tampa Bay respond early in the second.
Within just seven minutes, the Lightning struck three times, on goals from Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. But Washington was not going to let this one get away so easily, as Carl Hagelin fired an angular shot through the top half of the goal and T.J. Oshie finally capitalized (pun intended) on the Washington power play to tie it up at three a piece.
Less than two minutes later, Kucherov found the back of the net for the second time after an elaborate passing-setup by the Bolts, quickly snagging back the lead. This was when things really started heating up, as Michal Kempny and Cedric Paquette exchanged blows right in front of the Caps’ bench. Kempny appeared to land awkwardly on the ice and required assistance to the locker room after the scrap. Meanwhile Caps forward Jakub Vrana echoed his earlier statements before the game, saying how this match “felt like war,” by dropping the gloves and exchanging punches with Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde at the tailend of the second.
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Despite the Caps getting two more cracks on the power play in the third period, it wasn’t until the final minute of regulation, with an extra attacker on the ice for the pulled Braden Holtby, that they tied it up at 4-4 off a Evgeny Kuznetsov squeaker through the short side of Andrei Vasilevskiy. This sent the game to overtime, which, let’s face it, was sure to be must-watch sports television!
After some back-and-forth chances on both ends, it would be Victor Hedman playing the role of the hero for the Bolts, after he weaved through the crease and flicked a backhander past the left pad of Holtby for the game winner. His one goal and one assist on the night extended his current point streak to six games.
The Bolts were outshot and outhit by massive margins, with the Caps logging more than double Tampa Bay’s total shots at 58-28 and doubling their total hits 34-17. This was Washington’s highest shot total on the season and the most shots allowed by the Lightning in team history. So much credit is owed to Vasilevskiy and some of the quick-reaction and point-blank saves he made.
But credit to the Lightning’s special teams as well, as their first-ranked power play continued to show its potency by going 3-for-3 on the night. Meanwhile, despite taking such a high number of penalties, the Bolts penalty kill held the Caps to just 1-for-6 on the power play.
The first meeting between these two Goliaths last Saturday night felt like a playoff matchup. But this second meeting took it to a whole new level. And there is something to be said about this Lightning team, that currently has nothing “dire” that they are playing for since they have already clinched the first seed in the Atlantic, East and NHL. If they so desired, the Bolts could kick their feet up and coast through the rest of the regular season. Instead, this team remains determined and focused, grinding out a tough win in a hostile environment against the reigning Stanley Cup champs.
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The Bolts and Caps will meet one more time, just 10 days from now, back at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Mark that on your calendar, because it is surely going to be another must-see matchup.