The Capitals scored twice in the final 62 seconds of the second period to gain control, and Washington beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 on Sunday night in Tampa, Fla., to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and two assists for Washington while Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin added a goal and an assist apiece. Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly scored the Capitals’ other goals.
The best-of-seven series shifts to Washington for Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos scored on power-play goals in the first period for Tampa Bay. They also each had an assist.
“We’re getting away from what has made us successful in the past,” Stamkos said. “When you’re at home and you drop the first two, it’s disappointing.”
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 33 saves. Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots.
Eller scored the go-ahead goal with 1:02 remaining in the second period. Kuznetsov then tallied on a power play with 2.9 seconds to play in the period, with Ovechkin and Eller assisting, to put Washington on top 4-2.
“It’s all about the power plays,” Kuznetsov said. “Guys stepped up and made the plays. Overall it doesn’t matter who you play in the playoffs, you should focus on your game. We shared the puck well.”
Eller, filling in on the second line for Nicklas Backstrom (hand), drew praise from Washington coach Barry Trotz.
“He’s got all of the qualities of a playoff-type player,” Trotz said, according to USA Today Sports. “He’s big, he’s strong and he’s got experience. He’s very competitive. He’s got a good skill level and he’s playing that way. He’s playing to his ability right now. We’ve had people step up, but he’s one of the guys that has stepped up in a major way for us. The guys in the room they know how valuable he is.”
It was the second time in as many games that the Capitals struck in the waning seconds of a period after they scored with 2.9 seconds remaining in the first period of Game 1.
Ovechkin’s goal just 3:34 into the third period pushed the advantage to 5-2. Connolly capped the scoring at 12:57 of the final period.
“We’re just not there, especially defensively,” Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman said. “You can’t win a playoff game allowing six goals.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper added, “If there is one thing I can sit here and say about these two games, it’s that we just played tentative and a little bit slow. We didn’t get 113 points by playing that way. We didn’t win the first two rounds by playing that way. These first two games, that’s the way we’ve played.”
Wilson scored 28 seconds into the game, deflecting what looked like a rather routine delivery by defenseman Matt Niskanen from inside the blue line.
That was perhaps a jarring development given that the Capitals also had a strong start in Game 1.
The Lightning responded, taking the lead less than 10 1/2 minutes into the game.
Point scored to tie the game at 7:08 before Stamkos converted on a power play at 10:22. The second goal was set up by Nikita Kucherov’s pass.
The Capitals were a bit disjointed early, taking three penalties in the first 12:06 of the game.
Smith-Pelly pulled Washington even just 2:50 into the second period.
Washington’s John Carlson notched two assists, his 10th and 11th assist of the postseason.
Defenseman Victor Hedman assisted on the Lightning’s first goal, giving him eight assists during the past seven games. The seven-game points streak is a Tampa Bay playoff franchise record.
—Field Level Media