The single toughest game of the Washington Capitals’ entire season did not disappoint. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a scary good team, but the tired Caps didn’t shrink from the challenge. This one’s a ride. Let’s go.
Lars Eller kicked off the scoring in the first period with a solo drive after Alex Killorn turned the puck over.
The Caps carried that lead into the second period, where everything went to hell (temporarily). Nikita Kucherov scored a power-play goal early in the period, then Steven Stamkos added another power-play goal a minute later. A total mess in front of the Caps’ net ended in an own goal credited to Anthony Cirelli. But wait! Carl Hagelin kept the third line white hot, then TJ Oshie worked for a power-play goal to tie the game. Kucherov notched a second goal as the Caps’ penalty kill panicked, restoring the Bolts’ lead.
Washington was relentless in the third period but could not beat Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy until Evgeny Kuznetsov threaded the needle to tie it and force overtime. The Caps played great in overtime, but Victor Hedman finished it.
Caps lose 5-4 in overtime.
- Despite being the unrested team, Washington looked composed and in control in the first period. Until Wilson’s (meh) penalty in the final minute, the Caps did everything right.
- Behind many of those right things was Carl Hagelin, who helped set up Eller’s goal and scored one of his own. Hagelin is even better than advertised. He’s transformed the third line and made the Caps both dynamic and dangerous in transition play. Oh, and he’s scoring.
Hagelin now has as many points as a Cap as he did on the season at the time of the trade.
— Japers’ Rink 🏆 (@JapersRink) March 21, 2019
- But this game wasn’t all smiles. It got real dark in the second period as penalties took over the game. The Bolts, being the best power-play team in the league and the best penalty-kill team in the league, got the better of that, scoring two goals in the first few minutes of the third period.
- And then there’s John Carlson. Poor John kicked off Wednesday with Washington’s campaign to get him a Norris nomination, and then he was on the ice for three consecutive Tampa goals — with the third one going off Carlson’s skate. Deadly.
Caps beginning the Carlson for Norris campaigning pic.twitter.com/saTIUZYzqb
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) March 20, 2019
- Back on the bright side, TJ Oshie has been playing defensively responsible and heavy hockey for weeks now. His power-play goal in the second period was well earned.
- Michal Kempny suffered a lower-body injury in the second period. He and Cedric Paquette fell to the ice together, then Paquette punched him as he was clearly hurt. Jakub Vrana, incensed, got in his first NHL fight in response. If Kempny’s injury is long-term, and we’ll find out soon, it could be problematic for defensive depth heading into the postseason.
- The Caps really wanted this one, as their shot totals testified. The Caps put 58 shots on net, placing this game in the top-20 in franchise history.
- With his late-game heroics, Evgeny Kuznetsov joined the twenty-goal club. It was his eighth shot on goal of the night.
Tom Wilson appears to be having a pretty intense conversation with the Tampa Bay Lightning bench pic.twitter.com/XHYLXM6KX2
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) March 21, 2019
gahhh of the night
It stinks that this was a loss, but this was the most scheduled loss-y scheduled loss in the Caps’ calendar all year. And yet the Caps stepped up, putting forth one of their best offensive performances of the year.
This was an L on the stat sheet, but it was a statement as well. The Caps aren’t done yet. They’re ready to compete again.
Headline photo: Patrick McDermott