TAMPA – Early in the third period Thursday night, when the puck bounced off the boards, away from Alex Ovechkin, and sent the Tampa Bay Lightning on a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush up ice, it was exactly the type of play that could change the outcome of a game.
Tyler Johnson carried the puck down the right side and just as John Carlson committed to him, threaded a pass across the ice to Ondrej Palat, who was cutting through the slot. Despite the fact that Johnson waited until he reached the hash marks to send the puck right to left for Palat, Philipp Grubauer managed to get across the crease with the play.
He was in a full split when Palat’s one-timer went off his right leg for a highlight reel save that silenced many Lightning fans who assumed there was no way the rookie goaltender could have got there in time.
“They had pretty good chances on their PK, even in the first period they had a couple good ones,” said Grubauer, who finished with 33 saves in Washington’s 4-3 win and was prepared for such a scenario late in the contest. “I can’t cheat on the play right? I have to play it honest sometimes, can’t really cheat. Sometimes if he’s far enough out I can play a little bit deeper than usual. [It was a] good save.”
While the Lightning did end up tying the game with 5:30 left on a deflection by Palat, if they would have been able to pull even with Washington with just 2:55 gone in the third – the time of Grubauer’s split save – who knows how things might have turned out.
Here’s the replay:
Coach Adam Oates didn’t divulge the starter for Friday’s game against Toronto. Given that the team canceled its morning skate, we won’t know which goalie will start until Oates meets with reporters at 5 p.m.