Rick Sassone on March 18, 2017
Tampa, Fla. – – The Washington Capitals got the early jump tonight, flying out of the door and an early too many men on the ice penalty is just what the Caps needed to open up the scoring. A tic, tack, toe power play as T.J. Oshie rocketed one from the low slot past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goal was set up quite nicely by Marcus Johansson, who ended up leaving after the first period due to illness, and Nicklas Backstrom.
Although Vasilevskiy was solid all night making 30 stops, a majority on the higher end of the difficulty scale, the Caps proved just too relentless as they flexed the NHL leading muscle time and time again.
T.J. Oshie would figure in the third goal of the game as well. This time Oshie was off in the sin-bin for a high stick. Nikita Kucherov from a familiar area of the ice surface beat Braden Holtby to cut the Caps lead in half. Just :16 later, Alex Killorn ties the game and the roof is raised.
The second period was a power struggle back and forth, no penalties, no goals with the Caps out-shooting the Lightning 13-8.
The third period would decide the game and the Washington Capitals were up to the task. Early in the period, Jonathan Drouin took an interference call and the Lightning were up to the task to kill the two minutes. But as Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said, “We just stopped playing,” speaking of when the penalty expired. The Caps scored :13 after the expiration on a beautiful set up to the point on a pass from Andre Burakovsky to Matt Niskanen who received the pass just as he was skating in over the blueline. Niskanen blasted one in on Vasilevskiy that found the back of the net. Niskanen was originally credited with the goal but it was later changed as it was ruled that it deflected off Justin Williams. Anyway, a huge go ahead goal for the Capitals.
A huge State Farm goal (insurance goal) by John Carlson would prove to be a well paid premium as the Lightning scored with just 1:30 left. Nikita Kucherov beat Braden Holtby to cut the lead to one.
Down by one, the goalie pulled, excitement pumping in the arena…. and then boom, an empty netter by T.J. Oshie to complete the hattrick and knockout at the same time.