It was the third meeting of the teams since November 29th, the final meeting of the teams in this regular season. The Caps took a lead, withstood a persistent parade to the penalty box, scored late, and added an insurance empty netter while shorthanded to skate away with the sweep of the season series in a 3-1 win.
The Capitals were the beneficiaries of an early power play, courtesy of the Lightning playing with too many men on the ice. The Caps had several good looks and managed one shot on goals (Nicklas Backstrom), but Tampa Bay killed off the penalty.
The Caps returned the favor 8:08 into the period when Alex Ovechkin was sent off for hooking. The Lightning got shots on goal from Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, but neither eluded goaltender Braden Holtby, and the game remained scoreless.
Washington enjoyed its second power play of the game late in the period when Mitchell Stephens was whistled for high-sticking. The Caps did not score on what would become an abbreviated power play when Tom Wilson was sent off for interference to put the teams at 4-on-4 for 12 seconds before Tampa Bay went on a power play. Tampa Bay failed to convert the time they had with the man advantage, but they would carry some over into the second period after the first ended scoreless.
-- The Caps out-shot Tampa Bay, 13-6, and out-attempted them, 26-16.
-- It was a big hitting period, by contemporary standards, the Caps with a 15-13 edge in that category.
-- T.J. Oshie won all three faceoffs he took. The rest of the Caps were 4-for-15 (26.7 percent).
The Caps killed off the remaining 47 seconds of shorthanded ice time that carried over into the second period, and the teams continued their scoreless trek.
Washington took the lead in the fifth minute of the period when Lars Eller fed Radko Gudas for a one-timer at the top of the offensive zone that hit defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the jersey logo and ricocheted past goalie Curtis McElhinney into the back of the net, the Caps taking the 1-0 lead at the 4:40 mark.
The Caps got a scare with just over 12 minutes left in the period when T.J. Oshie was cutting down the wing toward the Lightning net. He was hooked from behind by Nikita Kucherov, causing him to lose his balance and fall forward head first into Mikhail Sergachev. Oshie crumpled to the ice and remained there for some time before skating off under his own power directly to the locker room. He appeared to have a cut lip, but the bigger concern was whether Oshie, who has a history of concussions, suffered another.
The Caps went shorthanded in the 13th minute of the period when Garnet Hathaway was charged with a hooking penalty. The Lightning failed in their third power play of the night, though, and the Caps maintained their one-goal lead.
There would be no more scoring and no more hijinks before the teams went to their respective locker rooms for the second intermission, the Caps still in front, 1-0.
-- Tampa Bay was credited with 31 hits through two periods to 17 for the Caps.
-- Lots of hitting for the Bolts, not much shooting. The Caps out-shot them, 16-6, in the period (29-12 for the game) and out-attempted them, 27-20 (53-36 for the game). Tampa Bay had only seven players with shots on goal, and defenseman Victor Hedman had a third of the team’s shots on goal (four).
-- John Carlson led the Caps with 15:27 in ice time through two periods, Richard Panik had the least with 6:00.
The Caps had a chance to add some insurance when Jan Rutta was sent to the penalty box on a holding call at the 4:29 mark. The Caps failed to record a shot on goal in the two-minute advantage, and the score remained 1-0.
The home team paid for failing to convert the power play mid-way through the period. A pinballing puck between the hash marks found its way to the stick of Nikita Kucherov, and he snapped it over Holtby’s left shoulder into the top corner to make it 1-1 at the 10:00 mark.
Just 35 seconds later, the Caps went short a man, Nick Jensen going off for interference. And then, it got worse. The Caps went down two men when Lars Eller was nicked for a delay of game/puck over glass call, putting the Caps down two men for 1:26. The Caps, and in particular Holtby, were up to the challenge, holding off the full power play to keep the game tied.
The Caps were rewarded for their penalty killing prowess at the other end in the 14th minute when Dmitry Orlov took a pass from Jakub Vrana at the left point and sailed a one-timer that appeared to hit Cedric Paquette’s shin pad and ricochet past McElhinney’s blaocker to make it 2-1 at the 13:57 mark.
Things got interesting, though, when Jonas Siegenthaler was charged with a slashing penalty with just 3:48 left to put the Lightning on their sixth power play of the game. The Lightning gambled and emptied their net for an extra attacker, but it backfired. Tom Wilson fed Nic Dowd on the right side, who stopped to let Kucherov slide by, then snapped the puck into the open cage to make it 3-1, 17:37 into the period.
With 69 seconds left, the Caps went shorthanded again, John Carlson going off for sending the puck off the rink from the defensive zone. The Caps ran out the clock on that shorthanded situation and skated off with a season series sweep of the Lightning, 3-1.
-- The Caps faced seven shorthanded situations in this game and killed all of them, their high for a perfect penalty kill this season. But it was not the high in shorthanded situations faced. They killed seven of eight power plays in a 4-3 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 29th.
-- Going 7-for-7 on the penalty kill was the most shorthanded situations faced without allowing a goal since New Year’s Eve, 2016, when the Caps killed all nine shorthanded situations they faced in a 6-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.
-- Eight different Caps recorded points, Dmitry Orlov the only one with two. It was his second multi-point game of the season, the other also against Tampa Bay (1-1-2) on November 29th.
-- The Caps out-shot the Lightning, 35-27. The teams finished even in shot attempts with 65 apiece.
-- Every Capital finished the game with at least one shot on goal except Richard Panik and Brendan Leipsic. Leipsic was the only Caps player without a shot attempt.
-- T.J. Oshie was the only Capital taking more than one faceoff who finishe over 50 percent, winning five of seven draws (71.4 percent).
-- Braden Holtby allowed one goal on 27 shots. It was the first time he allowed a single goal in his last eight games (a 2-1 Gimmick loss to Vancouver on November 23rd). It is the last time he did it in a win in his last 12 games, not since he allowed one in 31 shots in a 2-1 win over Philadelphia on November 13th.
-- The Caps finished the game with four power play shots on goal and four shorthanded shots on goal.
-- Twelve of the 18 skaters recorded blocked shots, led by Jonas Siegenthaler and John Carlson with three apiece.
-- Garnet Hathaway led the team with three credited hits.
In the end…
It was not a pretty game for either team, but the Caps seem much more comfortable in such contests than do the Lightning. It served them well, having to skate the back half of a back-to-back set of games and looking a bit fresher than the Lightning by the end of the contest. The Caps now have one game left before the holiday, but this was a nice game to continue down the home stretch to the break.