The last time the Capitals paid a visit to Amalie Arena in Tampa, this happened. Tonight is the first of three Eastern Conference Final rematches in the 15 days because, believe it or not, the Caps and Bolts haven’t played each other all season. Washington seems to have flipped the switch on their play lately, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are 18-2-0 against the Metropolitan Division this season. Who would come out on top this time? Spoiler: not the Caps.
The Caps made a clear effort to be physical at the beginning of this game, but it was Tampa on the board first with two goals two minutes apart. Despite two tallies from Alex Ovechkin and one from John Carlson, Alex Killorn powered the Bolts past the Caps with his first career hat trick.
Here’s Saturday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Taking four penalties is certainly not a plus, but Washington’s PK unit managed to keep Tampa’s best-in-the-league power play at 0-for-4 on the night (including 90 seconds of 5-on-3). That’s pretty solid work.
Minus: The Caps dug themselves into a two-goal hole at the beginning of the game against the best team in the league, and unfortunately they couldn’t dig themselves out.
And now, this…
Eleven more notes on the game:
1. Congrats to Nick Jensen for playing in his 200th career NHL game tonight!
2. 8:35 into the first period, Tyler Johnson extended his goal-scoring streak to three games after the Caps lost control of the puck in the neutral zone. He fired the puck past Braden Holtby after a slick pass from Brayden Point. Although let’s be real, it’s hard to tell which Tampa player is which, because their alternate jerseys are cool in concept but man is that all-black design hard to read. Anyway, Tampa is 35-3-3 this season when scoring first, so that’s not encouraging for Washington.
3. Alex Killorn made it 2-0 Bolts two minutes later with a sharp-angle shot. Holtby went to play the puck behind the net and sent it along the boards in the direction of Matt Niskanen, but Killorn snagged it and his shot bounced off Dmitry Orlov and into the net. Oof.
3. John Carlson, who did not score a goal against Tampa at all last season, brought the Caps within one with a beauty of a slapshot for his 12th goal of the season. This goal definitely would not have happened, however, without Alex Ovechkin going absolutely nuts on the forecheck to set the whole play up. Carlson now has a six-game point streak, and is four points shy of 400 career points.
5. Killorn double dipped and restored Tampa’s two-goal lead after completely outmuscling Nick Jensen. He bullied his way to the net, shook Jensen off, and was free to fire in his own rebound. Jensen will, uh, want to forget this one...
6. Nikita Kucherov was called for interference seven minutes into the second, and the Caps power play got to work for the second time tonight. Alex Ovechkin hadn’t scored in five games so he was due for one, and boy did he deliver. After being stopped cold by Andrei Vasilevskiy a few times tonight, he finally got one to the back of the net for his 47th goal of the season. Ovi now has 246 career power play goals, which ties Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito for fifth place all-time. No big deal.
7. With just over one minute to go, Ryan McDonagh took a penalty for roughing up T.J. Oshie, who was very smart to not retaliate. McDonagh then had the audacity to look offended when the ref sent him to the box. Perhaps he was just complaining about the officiating in general tonight, which would be fair.
8. Just under three minutes into the third, Erik Cernak put Tampa up 4-2. His shot went five hole on Holtby, who seemed to forget momentarily that the five hole exists. Definitely a flukey one to let through after playing so well until this. Down by two is probably not where the Caps wanted to be with less than 20 minutes to go against the top team in the league.
9. With 7:04 left, Ovi was back at it again with the goal scoring. Orlov fired a puck on net that bounced off the boards, and the Great 8 was there to cash in on the rebound. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 48 on the season. This is his 131st career multi-goal game, which moves him into a tie with Teemu Selanne for the eighth-most in NHL history. Ovi also now has 45 goals in 67 games against Tampa in his career. Not bad.
10. Ondrej Palat was called for tripping with less than six minutes to go. Some might say this was a Very Important power play for the Caps, but the Caps did not seem to think so. They couldn’t cash in on this excellent opportunity, and with 47 seconds left on the clock. Alex Killorn notched his first career hat trick with an empty netter. That brings the total number of hatties against the Caps to six on the season (others from Viktor Arvidsson, Tomas Hertl, Nazem Kadri, Sam Reinhart, and Jonathan Toews)
11. Yanni Gourde added one more goal for Tampa with less than two seconds left on the clock, bringing the final score to 6-3. Despite the outcome, however, this was a wildly entertaining game, and next Wednesday should be another thriller.
The Caps get two days off before facing the New Jersey Devils, who were recently officially eliminated from playoff contention, on Tuesday at the Prudential Center. The night after that? Another game against the Bolts, this time at Capital One Arena. These next two weeks will be fun, y’all.