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Extra Shift: Washington Capitals 6 Lightning 5 – SO

OK, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. The Lightning, for the first time in quite some time, struggled on the penalty kill. They committed a couple of very costly penalties, particularly the Richard Panik five-minute boarding major, and gave one of the best power play units in the league a chance to shine. The Caps did, scoring three power play goals. The Bolts also yielded a sixth-attacker goal in the final minute, as Washington again made the Lightning pay when it had one extra skater on the ice. And for the first time all season, the Bolts didn’t win the shootout; as a result, they surrendered the extra point.

In nearly every other aspect of the game, however, the Lightning dominated. Coach Jon Cooper has been looking for more shots on goal. The Bolts obliged, peppering Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer with 42 shots, three shy of their season-high for shots in a game. In five-on-five play, the Lightning were the better team, by a wide margin. Interestingly, Washington came into this game having won consecutive contests in regulation for the first time all season and one of the big reasons why was their excellent defensive play. They had allowed only three total goals in those two victories and were getting compliments on how cleanly they had been breaking out of their zone. But in this game, it was the Bolts who were cleanly breaking out of their own zone and entering the Washington end with speed. The Caps, on the other hand, had numerous problems with Tampa Bay’s forecheck and back pressure, which continually forced turnovers. As a result, the majority of this game was played in the Washington defensive zone.

The Lightning also looked good on the power play, which had scored only four goals in the previous 17 games. But they netted two in this one – hopefully a sign that it will start producing on a more regular basis.

I was impressed with the Lightning’s resiliency. After Tampa Bay’s 3-0 lead was cut to 3-2 early in the second period, one might figure the Caps would build on that momentum. But instead, the Bolts snatched it right back and re-established their five-on-five dominance. When Tyler Johnson’s goal gave the Lightning a 4-2 lead with over seven minutes left in the period, the Lightning didn’t allow the Capitals any more looks – until the aforementioned boarding penalty.

That major penalty got the Caps back in the game, as they scored twice. When the kill finally ended early in the third, the Lightning had seen their lead evaporate. That was a kick to the gut. But as was the case after the second Washington goal, the Lightning got right back on the bicycle – and thoroughly outplayed the home team for the rest of the third period. In all, the Bolts outshot the Caps, 15-7, in the final frame. They retook the lead when Ondrej Palat scored with 11:24 left and managed the game well from that point on. If not for a couple of key Grubauer saves, they would have gotten another and likely put the game out of reach. But the Caps hung in there and got the game tied with the sixth attacker.

So here’s the takeaway. On most nights, the Lightning performance would have been good enough for two points. But you’ve got to tip your cap to the Washington power play and Alex Ovechkin, who tied a career high with four goals. He single-handedly saved his team tonight from a regulation loss. The Bolts will bank their single point, their fourth in the last three games, and prepare for Detroit on Thursday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game: The five-minute major, which allowed the Caps to score twice and tie the game at 4 after two periods.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Alex Ovechkin – Capitals. Four goals, tying a career high. With two PPG, he became the Caps’ all-time power play goal leader (138 PPG).
  2. Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Goal and assist. Palat, Tyler Johnson and Marty St. Louis were the best line on the ice.
  3. Marty St. Louis – Lightning. Goal and two assists.

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