The Washington Capitals took to the road on Thursday night, visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. The Caps got out to a 3-1 lead early in the second period, only to see the Lightning tie it mid-way through the third period to force extra time. The Lightning were granted a power play chance in the extra session, and they converted it to send the Caps to their first loss of the season, 4-3.
For two teams with a lot of offensive firepower, they came out like a couple of heavyweights in a prize fight content just to feel one another out. The Caps grabbed a shovel and started digging themselves a hole when Aaron Ness took a penalty in the fifth minute of the period, and then took another penalty nine minutes later. The Caps held the Bolts to one shot on their two power plays. After that, they handed the shovel to the Lightning to start digging a hole. Nicklas Backstrom got the Caps on the board, taking a cross-ice feed from Andre Burakovsky, gliding through the right wing circle, and snapping a shot that seemed to handcuff goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy at the 16:42 mark.
Barely 20 seconds later, the Caps found themselves on their first power play of the evening, Yanni Gourde sent off for slashing. Just over a minute into the power play, John Carlson took a pass from Backstrom at the blue line, walked the puck back to the middle of the ice, then flipped a shot at the net that nicked T.J. Oshie on the way through to give the Caps a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.
The Caps got burned in the sixth minute of the period when they were trying to move the puck into the Lightning end of the ice. A pass to Alex Ovechkin at the red line went awry, and Braydon Coburn grabbed the sliding puck. He fed it up to Brayden Point heading down the left wing, and after carrying it across the blue line, Point found Alex Killorn before he was plastered by Dmitri Orlov. It was taking a hit to make a play, though, as Killorn one-timed the pass high over goalie Philipp Grubauer’s glove, and it was 2-1, Caps.
Oshie got it back on a power play just over two minutes later. With the Lightning short for a faceoff violation, the Caps worked the puck around the perimeter, setting up Oshie for a one-timer that was foiled, but Evgeny Kuznetsov swept the loose puck back to Backstrom along the boards. Backstrom waited until Oshie found space and a passing lane in the middle, then threaded a pass that Oshie one-timed off the far post and behind Vasilevskiy to make it 3-1 at the 7:49 mark.
Tampa Bay got back to within a goal late when Anton Stralman sent a lollipop of a shot at the net that was redirected by Chris Kunitz (yes, that Chris Kunitz) down and to the left of Grubauer’s pad to make it 3-2 with 1:51 left in the period.
The Caps survived an early Tampa Bay power play on which the Lightning recorded six shots on goal, but the Lightning pressure was persistent as the period wore on. It finally bore fruit at the 10:46 mark when Nikita Kucherov barreled into the Caps’ zone and with Taylor Chorney trying to get a body and a stick on him, roofed a backhand over Grubauer’s left shoulder to tie the game, 3-3. It was part of an onslaught on the Washington net as the Lightning outshot the Caps, 17-6.
The Caps stepped in it right away, taking a too-many-men penalty just 1:21 into the extra frame. With less than 15 seconds left before killing it off, the Caps allowed their first power play goal of the season, Nikita Kucherov one-timed a feed that ricocheted off Brayden Point and past Grubauer’s glove for the game-winner.
-- Nicklas Backstrom’s first period goal was his first of the season and 189th as a Capital, passing Bobby Carpenter for eighth place on the team’s all-time list of goal scorers. Next up is Dave Christian with 193 goals in 504 games played with the Caps from 1983 to 1990.
-- When T.J. Oshie recorded a goal and an assist in the first period, it made it 29 multi-point games as a Cap, passing Bengt Gustafsson and tying Andrei Nikolishin, Eric Fehr, and Troy Brouwer for 35th place in team history. When he scored his second goal, he had his tenth three-point game as a Cap, tying Dave Christian, Ulf Dahlen, and Dainius Zubrus for 21st place on the team’s all-time list.
-- Backstrom’s assist on Oshie’s second goal gave him a three-point night, his 65th as a Capital, second-most in team history (Alex Ovechkin has 92).
-- Washington allowed 40 shots, the third straight game in which they allowed more than 30 shots on goal. The Caps allowed only one team 40 or more shots last season, that coming in a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets On November 1, 2016, when they allowed 45 shots on goal.
-- Tampa Bay out-shot the Caps, 22-7 over the third period and overtime. Overall, they out-attempted Washington, 83-48.
-- John Carlson led the team with six shots on goal and eight shot attempts.
-- The Caps allowed 12 shots on goal on the last two Tampa Bay power plays.
-- Dmitry Orlov played a team-high 27:32 for the Caps. John Carlson (26:15) and Matt Niskanen (25:54) also topped 25 minutes.
-- Jay Beagle had an uncharacteristically off night in the circle, going 4-for-13 overall and 2-for-8 in the defensive end.
-- The domination by the Lightning at fives was complete. They out-attempted the Caps, 60-33, at 5-on-5 (64.52 percent; numbers from Corsica.hockey).
In the end…
The problems the Caps have were on display tonight. They are replacing half of their defense from last season with players who, frankly, are not as talented as those they are replacing, and Brooks Orpik is being asked to play second pair minutes when he played mostly third pair minutes last season. The best thing you can say is that perhaps things will sort themselves out, that the new guys will improve enough to at least not be a liability on the ice. But the Lightning made up a 3-1 deficit by scoring two goals with the Taylor Chorney/Aaron Ness defensive pair on the ice. Consider that Chorney played barely ten minutes (10:17), and Ness played just 8:56, and one has to be concerned that this is something teams will look to exploit on a night-to-night basis. The Caps did get a point, but it was one point fewer than they should have taken from this game, defensive breakdowns (not limited to Chorney/Ness by any means) and an inability to put the team away when they had a 3-1 lead less than half-way through the contest dooming them in the end.