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Capitals vs Lightning Recap: Shaking Off The Rust, Caps Fall in Shootout 3-2

The Caps claw back in the second and third to snag a point in the round-robin tournament

NHL: Eastern Conference Qualifications-Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to imagine but hockey is back! Like the players, you’ll have to give me a break because I have a lot of recap rust to knock off.

In the Washington Capitals first somewhat meaningful game back they dropped a shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Overall, it was a strong game by the Capitals, but it was easy to see they had a lot of rust they needed to shake off.

The Good: The first line that led the Capitals to their Stanley Cup victory two years ago looked really good today. Specifically, Evgeny Kuznetsov who has flying all over the ice even playing quite physical. This teams failure or success goes which ever way Kuznetsov goes, so hopefully that game was just the beginning for the Russian.

The Bad: The second line looked completely out of whack through out the game. Their passes were off, they couldn't’ receive any passes when they were good, they were bobbling pucks, etc. They had some bright spots but mostly got out played. Good news is that line is made up of the three hardest workers so I wouldn’t fret over one bad round robin game.

Some notes:

  • Carl Hagelin was noticeable during the game. He started everything off with a breakaway chance early in the game. Everyone knew it wasn’t going in but good to see the legs going.
  • The Lightning took the lead half way through the first from Kucherov with an absolute snipe after the Capitals were caught with too many men on the ice. It was the result from a rare Lars Eller turnover in the neutral zone. He also had THREE whiffs in prime scoring chances through out the game. It was not his best game but it’s best to get those bad ones out of the way before they count.
  • Overall it was a rough first for the Capitals, but that was expected after such a long time off.
  • Close to halfway through the 2nd period the Lightning scored again on a kind of chaos play that resulted in a tip in goal. But that’s when the Capitals started to wake up. It was aided by a fight involving TJ Oshie. TJ should not be fighting with his concussion history, especially in the meaningless game, but it really fueled the Capitals come back.
  • The Capitals finally broke through with a lucky goal with under 3 minutes left in the 2nd. A point shot from Radko Gudas hit a Lightning defensemen, which trickled to Vasilevskiy who lost it in his equipment before Richard Panik was able to smash it home on the goal line. Panik was one of the better players in the game and the fact the Capitals can play him on the fourth line is a great necessity.
  • Shortly after, Garnett Hathaway drew a hold penalty giving the struggling Capitals powerplay another look and it scored in the most unusual way. It wasn’t an Ovechkin one timer or Oshie slot snipe. It was a point writster from Orlov which hit Vasilevskiy and he lost it again in his equipment before Kuznetsov jammed it home on the goal line, just like their first goal.
  • Speaking of special teams, the Capitals powerplay was meh but was expected with no John Carlson. But most important of all they took all of one penalty. Being able to keep games at 5v5 will greatly improve the Capitals chances of scoring even if their penalty kill is really good. This team is at it’s best when it’s flowing at evens, not being broken up with penalties.
  • The Capitals dominated the third period and could have scored a couple goals. It looked like they finally broke off the rust and were playing their game: hard, fast, north-south, and highly skilled.
  • In OT it was the same story, the Capitals were strong and Braden Holtby even made a couple strong saves, topping off his strong game. They couldn’t win it in the shootout but that means nothing.

Overall, it was a good game by the Capitals. They can always get better but considering there was no Carlson (the Lightning had no Steven Stamkos), they were the away team, and were playing a very strong, hungry team, it should be considered a win. Next up if the Philadelphia Flyers who were a pest to the Capitals all season. They’ll need to be even better to beat them.