The Washington Capitals used a four-goal outburst in the first two periods to down the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Four goals from four different players and they did this with Nicklas Backstrom missing his second straight game with a hand injury. The unlikeliest, Michal Kempny, provided the Capitals first goal 7:58 into the first period. Washington jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the second period and never looked back. Washington improved to 7-3 in the postseason when scoring first.
Here are three takeaways from the Capitals’ dominating win.
1. Capitals’ Shut Down Potent Lightning Offense from Opening Period
For all the talk about the Lightning’s offense, which led the NHL during the regular season in scoring, the Capitals defense suffocated Tampa’s offense in the first 20 minutes, setting the tone of how the game and possibly the series will go. The Capitals held Tampa to just two shots on goal, dominating the neutral zone and forcing the game to be played in their offensive zone. Tampa had no answers for the Capitals defense for the game’s first 40 minutes, and it was not until Washington defended their four-goal lead did Tampa broke through on the less-attacking Capitals.
While it’s hard to imagine Washington holding the potent Lightning offense to just two shots in any period for the remainder of this series, it’s not hard to imagine Washington limiting Tampa’s scoring just like they did against Sidney Crosby and the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins a round earlier.
2. Turning Point: Lightning Goal Waved, Capitals Score on Ensuing Power Play
The Capitals had the momentum in their grasp, but it appeared Tampa had weathered the storm, scoring on a Nikita Kucherov goal just seven seconds before the end of the first period. However, Tampa had six men on the ice at the time of the goal, and referees waved off the goal. A penalty was assessed to Lightning for having the extra man on ice. And the Capitals wasted no time taking advantage, as Alex Ovechkin fired the puck through the net for the power play goal right off the first face-off less than two seconds into the power play.
The goal came with six seconds remaining in the period, and gave Washington a 2-0 lead. That sequence shifted the momentum right back into the Capitals side. And quite possibly ending the hopes of the Lightning for Game 1.
3. Capitals Proved There Was No Pittsburgh Hangover
Going into the Game 1, it was feared that the Capitals would have a hangover from beating their nemesis the Penguins and finally breaking a 20-year curse of reaching a Conference Final for the city of Washington and the franchise. That was not the case from the opening face-off throughout. The seven-minute stretch between the end of the first period and the start of the second, Washington netted three goals showing how hungry they are to finish the quest and go beyond just beating Pittsburgh.
Even with a two-goal lead entering the second period the Capitals did not let off the pedal, scoring two more goals in the first 6:42 of the second to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Jay Beagle scored at the 2:40 mark and Lars Eller deposited a rebound off Ovechkin’s shot for a power play goal at the 6:42 mark of the second. From there the life of the sold out crowd at Amalie Arena.