The Washington Capitals unraveled on home ice in Game Three of the Eastern Conference final, unable to muster the offense needed to top a flurry of offense from the Tampa Bay Lightning on home ice. Rather than take a commanding series lead, the Lightning narrowed the gap with a 4-2 win.
Washington Capitals Unravel In Game Three.
Physical Presence Key In the First Period of Game Three.
The first-period commenced as expected with the Capitals showing dominance. Battling hard along the board’s led to the majority seeing Caps come out on top. It created sustained offensive pressure and precision passing in Tampa’s own zone, giving the Capitals a 14-10 lead in shots.
However, physical play defined momentum of the period assisted by Ryan Callahan and Tom Wilson. Big hits turned it around halfway through the period, giving Tampa a few good chances that led to Braden Holtby making key saves, but led to the goaltender receiving a tripping penalty.
Both teams have had impressive special teams in this series, but Tampa has been more dangerous, and this continued. Captain Steven Stamkos scored the opening goal with just over six minutes left in the period. This made it three goals in three games for the 28-year old. That left the Capitals reeling for the rest of the period
Lightning Does Strike Twice…in the Second.
With two penalties against unlikely culprit forward Lars Eller, Tampa took full advantage yet again. First, Russian power forward Nikita Kucherov scored early into the second period, firing a blistering slap shot high over the shoulder of Holtby. Then Kucherov showed off his passing ability, finding a wide-open Victor Hedman cruising through the slot to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Again, the Capitals struggled to deal with Tampa’s speed and the Lightning’s confidence in the offensive zone continued to grow.
The young side did show some inexperience with this overconfidence. Being aggressive in the offensive zone led to an opening for Brett Connolly to get Washington on the scoresheet midway through the frame.
But with the continued hussle of Tampa, they replied less than six minutes later. Brayden Point shrugged off competition to sneak a short sided goal against Holtby. The Capitals breakdown of communication and physical presence was evident.
Tampa Continued To Dominate In a Heated Final Period
Down three goals and running out of time, the Caps did pick up the pace, dramatically increasing the number of pucks they fired on, and at the net, in the third, but Andrei Vasilevskiy stayed strong between the pipes.
It was the kind of performance Lightning fans have come to expect from their number one this season. He was solid when it mattered most and frustrated the Capitals. Something that led to four Capitals seeing the penalty box in quick concession.
It was only a matter of time before the Lightning woke up and started to play hockey. Too many penalties conceded by the Capitals led to the home side downfall. The Lightning have managed at least one powerplay goal each game this series, and a 2-5 performance tonight paints the Capitals powerplay in – perhaps – a better light than it deserves.
At even-strength the Lightning really shone, particularly the newly-formed trio of Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson. On the opposite end of the ice, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Chiasson, and Jay Beagle were all less than stellar.
While this may be expected from the Capitals depth players, Orlov has been a standout player this post-season, and they clearly missed his ability to break out of the defensive zone tonight.
Although still early in the series this is a hard loss for Washington, they will need to find that fire and intensity from the last two games to avoid disappointment.
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