TAMPA — The Washington Capitals’ penalty kill had been riding a streak of perfection entering overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night. Thirteen straight penalties to start the season had passed without the Capitals allowing a goal. Ironically, there were 13 seconds left in Washington’s bench minor for having too many players on the ice when Lightning forward Brayden Point deflected in the game-winning goal to hand Washington a 4-3 loss, its first of the season.
The winner marked Tampa Bay’s 40th shot of the game, as the Capitals’ troubles began long before that penalty in the extra period. The Capitals had a two-goal lead in the second period, and then they entered the final frame still up one when they couldn’t match the Lightning’s offensive push.
“We should’ve had this game,” Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said. “After [going up] 3-1, we should’ve just shut them down.”
With Washington clinging to a one-goal lead, the Lightning opened the third period by significantly outshooting the Capitals. On Tampa Bay’s 30th shot of the game and 12th of the period, forward Nikita Kucherov drove to the net and backhanded a shot up and over Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer to tie the game 10:46 into the third period. Before that equalizer, Washington had managed just three shots on goal after second intermission.
A telling moment came in the last three minutes of regulation, when Grubauer lost his stick behind the net and couldn’t leave his crease to retrieve it because Washington was again pinned in its own zone. The Capitals were outshot 17-6 in the third period but managed to hold on and reach the three-on-three overtime, ensuring both teams earned at least a point. Grubauer finished with 36 saves.
“Once we got the lead, it’s almost like we sat back and almost played a little too passive,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. “They came after us and did a great job. Pretty good momentum shift for them there, and Grubi held them off for as long as he could there.”
The game had been more even through the first two periods, and it seemed Washington would have the edge because of strong play by its power play and penalty kill. Fourteen penalties were called during the game, and while the Capitals came away with two power-play goals, the Lightning’s lethal man-advantage unit had been contained until overtime arrived.
Capitals defenseman Aaron Ness took two penalties in the first period, and on the first shift after Washington killed off the second of Ness’s minors, Backstrom scored his first goal of the season and the first of the game with a knuckling puck that got past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That goal moved Backstrom into eighth place on the Capitals’ all-time goals list with 189.
On the next shift, Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde was called for slashing Washington’s Jakub Vrana, giving the Capitals their first power play of the game. A minute later, defenseman John Carlson’s point shot was tipped by Oshie in front to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead that held up through 20 minutes. Oshie made it 3-1 when he scored on the power play again after Tampa Bay was called for a faceoff violation 7:13 into the second period.
Backstrom and Oshie both had three-point nights, and Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said their play was one of the positives from the game. A negative was that Trotz thought the Capitals had opportunities to extend their lead to three goals, and when they didn’t, they opened the door for the Lightning to storm back.
“We had a couple chances to make it 4-1. We didn’t, and then they just chipped away,” Trotz said. “It was too much time on the clock against a very good, explosive hockey team.”
A pivotal moment came less than four minutes into the third period. A Chris Kunitz goal late in the second period had cut the Capitals’ lead to one, and a too many men on the ice penalty on Washington gave the Lightning’s power play a chance to tie the game 3:28 into the third.
The Capitals’ penalty kill had limited Tampa Bay’s man-advantage unit to just one shot on goal in its first three opportunities. But on this fourth power play of the game, the Lightning had possession for the entire two minutes. It was a shooting gallery on Grubauer, who made six saves as Washington was shorthanded.
But the Capitals weren’t able to draw any momentum off surviving that Tampa Bay power play. Instead, Kucherov tied the game less than six minutes later, and a fatigued Washington team that had been under siege for the entire third period again found itself unable to get out of its own end of the ice in overtime.
“I thought the team that deserved to win tonight won,” Lightning Coach Jon Cooper said. “They’ve got a really good team over there; you give them opportunities they’re going to bury you. But we were a determined group.”
Summary: Lightning 4, Capitals 3 (OT)