Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Caps beat Lightning in Game 1

DOMINANT VISITORS:When the Caps made it 4-0 in the second period, Tampa Bay, the highest-scoring regular season team, had allowed as many goals as they had shots

AP, TAMPA, Florida

There was no letdown for the Washington Capitals. Just more winning hockey.

Putting an emotional second-round victory over playoff nemesis and two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh behind them, the Caps on Friday night got a power-play goal and assist from Alex Ovechkin in his Eastern Conference Finals debut to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2.

Braden Holtby stopped 19 shots and Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle and Lars Eller also scored for the Caps, who are alive beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time in Ovechkin’s brilliant 13-year career.

“We had a really good start. We didn’t give them much,” Ovechkin said. “I think it’s we realized we just have to play our way. It doesn’t matter which position we are, which round it is. Everybody was paying the price.”

Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat scored for Tampa Bay, who trailed 4-0 heading into the third period.

Game 2 is tonight at Amalie Arena, where Tampa Bay also lost Game 1 in the second round against Boston.

“It’s just one game. That’s the way we have to look at it,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We’ve got to get back to what got us to the conference final.”

The Capitals dominated in improving to 6-1 on the road this post-season, with Kempny giving them an early 1-0 lead.

Ovechkin made it 2-0 a mere five seconds after the Lightning thought they had tied it in the closing seconds of the opening period, but Nikita Kucherov’s would-be breakaway goal was waved off because Tampa Bay had too many men on the ice.

T.J. Oshie won the ensuing face-off in the Lightning zone, getting the puck to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who fed Ovechkin for the Washington superstar’s ninth goal this post-season — 55th overall in 110 career playoff games.

“That gave us a real boost ... gave us some breathing room,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

Beagle and Eller scored in the first seven minutes of the second period for a 4-0 lead. Up to that point, the Lightning — the NHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season — had allowed as many goals as they had shots.

Tampa Bay replaced goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy with Louis Domingue after the starter allowed four goals on 25 shots through two periods.

Holtby lost his shutout when Stamkos, assisted by Kucherov and Victor Hedman, scored in the third. Palat soon after trimmed Washington’s lead to 4-2.

Stamkos and Kucherov had one shot between them in the first two periods.

“That’s a good hockey team over there, and they outplayed us tonight,” Stamkos said. “In hindsight, we were in this same position in the last round and found a way to respond.”

“We’ve just got to put it behind us,” Lightning winger Ryan Callahan added. “We’ve been in this situation before, unfortunately. You don’t want to be, but you don’t have to look too far to draw back on the way we responded against Boston. We have to do the same here.”

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