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Capitals @ Lightning Recap: Lightning Strike Thrice in 3-2 Win

A Caps rookie scored his first NHL goal, but Vasilevskiy and the Bolts hand the Caps their first regulation loss of the season.

Washington Capitals v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals last travelled to the Sunshine State to play hockey on December 14, 2019, when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2. This is, however, already the second time the Caps and Bolts face off this season; the October 16th matchup went Tampa’s way with a 2-1 Lightning victory in overtime.

A few lineup notes for tonight: Nic Dowd landed on IR today, so the Caps recalled forward Aliaksei Protas from Hershey to make his NHL debut. According to Caps PR, Protas, a third-round pick, is just the sixth player selected in the third round or later in the 2019 draft to play in an NHL game. With Protas getting a sweater tonight, the lines looked like this:

Fun fact: tonight is the first time in franchise history that the Capitals ice three forwards who are 6’5” or taller in one game. Protas (6’6”), Brett Leason (6’5”) and Anthony Mantha (6’5”) are some big dudes, and this stat does not even include the 6’4” Tom Wilson.

Here’s Monday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: A first NHL goal always brings good vibes — congratulations on the milestone, Brett Leason!

Minus: Despite recording a PPG for the third consecutive game, the Capitals’ power play was pretty lackluster tonight. They looked unsure of themselves for much of their time on the man advantage, which made them very sloppy on the ice.

And now, congrats on the NHL debut, kid!

Eleven more notes on the game:

1. First NHL goal alert, folks! Just 1:13 into the game, Brett Leason got the Capitals on the board with his first NHL goal with a strange but fortunate bounce. Nick Jensen won a puck battle by the boards and chipped the puck up to Leason, who fired a wrist shot on net. The shot was a bit off target, but Leason got some help in the form of Victor Hedman’s stick to deflect the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Leason is now the third rookie (Lapierre, Fehervary) to score a goal for the Caps this year, which trails only the Anaheim Ducks for the most in the league.

2. Tampa got the game’s first power play opportunity with 9:05 remaining in the first after Dmitry Orlov took a seat for tripping Corey Perry. Vitek Vanecek stood tall on the Caps’ PK, and Tom Wilson had arguably the best chance of the two minutes with a decent shorthanded opportunity. The Bolts did use the power play to energize themselves, though, and they put a lot of pressure on Washington for a few minutes after Orlov returned from the box.

3. The Capitals got their first man advantage with 1:35 left on the clock in the first, with Alex Killorn heading to the box for slashing. They didn’t score, but the power play looked pretty solid nonetheless. Wilson had a particularly good look in the brief leftover PP time at the start of the second period, but Andrei Vasilevskiy made a better save. Also of note, Erik Cernak blocked not one but two Alex Ovechkin one-timers — ouch.

4. The Lightning tied things up 3:18 into the second with a tally from Alex Killorn, who is off to quite the hot start this season. The Bolts won the draw and Killorn was wide open in the crease to receive a quick pass and drive towards the net. Vanecek attempted a poke check on Killorn but he missed, giving Killorn plenty of room to get the puck past him.

5. Anthony Cirelli gave Washington their second power play of the evening 4:46 into the second after tripping Tom Wilson at the Tampa blue line. Cirelli lost his stick and tried to keep his defense going, but in an attempt to kick the puck away he ended up kicking Wilson’s feet out from under him. Unfortunately, the Caps power play did not look as sharp the second time around.

6. Orlov took his second penalty of the night less than a minute after Cirelli’s penalty expired, this one for hooking on Cirelli, and Tom Wilson joined him in the box just 40 seconds later after interference on Killorn. After 56 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey, Cirelli gave the Lightning their first lead of the game after an excellent set-up pass from Alex Barre-Boulet. 2-1 Tampa Bay, with 64 more seconds of power play time to work with. Fortunately for Washington, the Caps PK kept them from scoring again to keep the game within one goal.

7. Just under three minutes into the third, Brayden Point got his fourth goal of the season after a burst of speed and a well-executed rush. Vasilevskiy stopped Connor McMichael on an excellent break of his own down at the other end of the ice, but Point was the one able to convert on his chance. Point made Justin Schultz look very silly on the play and managed to beat Vanecek to give Tampa a 3-1 lead.

8. Victor Hedman gave the Caps another power play with 12:34 left on the clock after a holding call on Lars Eller. Washington’s power play struggled to get much of anything going, this time for lack of effort. The PP made things way too easy for Tampa’s penalty killers, who were able to clear the puck down the ice three different times. The Caps’ zone entries, which looked so good at the start of the season, were sloppy and ineffective.

10. Corey Perry was caught tripping Martin Fehervary with 8:37 to go, putting the Caps on the man advantage for the fourth time tonight. John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a good give-and-go working to the left of Vasilevskiy before Kuznetsov fed the puck to Conor Sheary, who was waiting in the T.J. Oshie power play spot to deflect the puck past Vasilevskiy to bring Washington within one. This is Sheary’s first goal of the season, and also the Caps’ first road power play tally of the season.

11. Garnet Hathaway and Pat Maroon took matching roughing minors with 7:26 left, which opened the ice up with two minutes of four-on-four hockey. Good news: the Lightning did not score and double their lead. Bad news: the Capitals did not score either, and Tampa handed Washington their first regulation loss of the season.

Up next for the Caps: continuing the tour of the Sunshine State with a visit with the Florida Panthers this Thursday, November 4 at 7PM.