Vasilevskiy, Light­ning top Caps to even se­ries

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Howard Fendrich

WASHINGTON » Alex Kil­lorn scored the tiebreaker with about 8 min­utes left, An­drei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves, and the Tampa Bay Light­ning weath­ered the equiv­a­lent of more than a pe­riod with­out a shot on goal to edge the Washington Cap­i­tals 4-2 on Thurs­day night, evening the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal at two games apiece.

Kil­lorn was left pretty much alone dur­ing a de­fen­sive break­down by Washington and scored 6 sec­onds af­ter a Tampa Bay power play ex­pired, putting in a pass from On­drej Palat.

Steven Stamkos and Bray­den Point scored Tampa Bay’s first two goals, and An­thony Cirelli added an empty-net­ter with a sec­ond left.

Washington’s goals came from Evgeny Kuznetsov — off an as­sist by Alex Ovechkin — and de­fense­man Dmitry Orlov.

The Light­ning host Game 5 on Satur­day night, with Game 6 back in Washington on Mon­day. The road team has won ev­ery game in the se­ries so far.

The Cap­i­tals, who elim­i­nated the twotime reign­ing Stan­ley Cup champion Pitts­burgh Pen­guins in the sec­ond round, fell to 3-5 over­all at home dur­ing these play­offs — and even got booed late in the first pe­riod, which ended with the Light­ning ahead 2-1.

The Light­ning won Game 4 de­spite go­ing nearly 21 full min­utes of game time — the last 10:41 of the first pe­riod, fol­lowed by the ini­tial 10:11 of the sec­ond — with­out putting a sin­gle of­fi­cial shot on net. And they won even though the Cap­i­tals fi­nally got back cen­ter Nick­las Back­strom, who was third on the team in points this sea­son be­hind Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. Back­strom had missed four games in a row with an in­jured right hand.

One key: Vasilevskiy played just like the Vez­ina Tro­phy fi­nal­ist he is. He was spec­tac­u­lar at times, in­clud­ing stops against Chan­dler Stephen­son on a break­away and Back­strom from the doorstep in the sec­ond pe­riod. Early in the third, Vasilevskiy used his left glove to swat away a try from Brett Con­nolly.

Af­ter one flubbed chance, Ovechkin threw his head back and looked up, the very pic­ture of dis­ap­point­ment.

Cap­i­tals goalie Braden Holtby didn’t need to make nearly as many saves, given the shot dis­crep­ancy: Washington ended up with 38 to Tampa Bay’s 20.

Orlov put the hosts ahead about 4½ min­utes af­ter the open­ing face­off with a shot from the left circle, but the Light­ning needed all of 70 sec­onds to draw even.

Washington de­fense­man Michal Kempny’s back­hand clear at­tempt went awry, slid­ing right onto the tape of Tyler Johnson’s stick. From there, it was as easy as 1-2-3 for Tampa Bay: Johnson passed to rookie Yanni Gourde, who moved it to Point, whose im­me­di­ate shot from close range gave Holtby no chance.

The Light­ning went up 2-1 lead less than 3 min­utes later, with Stamkos putting the team’s lone shot of a power play in off the left post. That capped a slick se­quence of passes, from Nikita Kucherov to J.T. Miller, back to Kucherov, back to Miller, to Point, who found Stamkos.

The Light­ning have pro­duced 11 pow­er­play goals over their last nine games, with at least one in each. And it’s been Stamkos lead­ing the way: He has scored on a power play in each game of this se­ries.

The game was barely 8½ min­utes old, and the Light­ning had only ac­cu­mu­lated five shots. But Tampa Bay al­ready had scored twice and si­lenced a bois­ter­ous, red-clad crowd that went from sup­port­ive chants of “Let’s go, Caps!” be­fore the game even be­gan to a ner­vous hush to — some­what un­be­liev­ably, given that Washington be­gan the day two wins from play­ing for the Stan­ley Cup — a smat­ter­ing of groans and jeers in the clos­ing sec­onds of the open­ing pe­riod.


Tampa Bay goal­tender An­drei Vasilevskiy (88) stops a shot by Washington’s Jakub Vrana (13) dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of Game 4 of the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals on Thurs­day.

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