Light­ning even se­ries vs. Cap­i­tals

The Maui News - - SPORTS - By HOWARD FENDRICH The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASHINGTON — Jon Cooper’s Tampa Bay Light­ning won Game 4 of the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal de­spite go­ing the equiv­a­lent of more than a pe­riod with­out a shot on goal.

They won de­spite fall­ing be­hind about 4 1/2 min­utes into the game.

They won de­spite be­ing called for three penal­ties — one right af­ter the other — late in the first pe­riod, al­low­ing Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Cap­i­tals’ pro­lific power play to get all that time to op­er­ate.

And they did it, mainly, thanks to An­drei Vasilevskiy, who made 36 saves and kept things close un­til Alex Kil­lorn scored the tiebreaker with about 8 min­utes left, lift­ing Tampa Bay to a 4-2 vic­tory over Washington on Thurs­day, evening the se­ries at two games apiece.

“When you don’t have your ‘A’ game, you need your goalie to have his ‘A’ game,” Cooper said. “And he sure did.”

Now the Light­ning will host Game 5 on Satur­day, with Game 6 back in Washington on Mon­day.

The road team has won ev­ery game in the se­ries so far.

“It’s pretty bizarre,” said Steven Stamkos, who took a puck off the face dur­ing the morn­ing skate, then went out and scored a power-play goal that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead af­ter the first pe­riod. “We’ve got to find a way to win one at home.”

The Cap­i­tals might be think­ing the very same thing. Af­ter all, they fell to 3-5 in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal this post­sea­son, while they are 7-1 in away games.

On Thurs­day, they even got booed — yes, a smat­ter­ing of jeers rang out in the team’s first con­fer­ence fi­nal in 20 years — late in the first pe­riod af­ter fail­ing to con­vert any of the trio of man-ad­van­tage chances.

That stretch was part of a chunk of nearly 21 full min­utes of game time — the last 10:41 of the first pe­riod, fol­lowed by the ini­tial 10:11 of the sec­ond — dur­ing which Tampa Bay never put a sin­gle of­fi­cial shot on net.

“Our guys were gassed. That’s a lot of stress. Men­tal stress. The same guys are on the ice the whole time. Other guys aren’t play­ing,” Cooper said. “You kind of lose your whole rhythm.”

And so it was vi­tal that Vasilevskiy played just like the Vez­ina Tro­phy fi­nal­ist he is.

He was spec­tac­u­lar at times, in­clud­ing stops against Chan­dler Stephen­son on a break­away and Nick­las Back­strom — who re­turned af­ter miss­ing four games with an in­jured right hand — from the doorstep in the sec­ond pe­riod. In the third, Vasilevskiy used his left glove to swat away a try from Brett Con­nolly.

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

Af­ter al­low­ing 10 goals in Games 1 and 2, Vasilevskiy has given up a to­tal of four in Games 3 and 4.

“He didn’t play great in the first two. He played well in the sec­ond two. It’s our job to make him look like the goalie from the first two games,” Washington for­ward Tom Wil­son said. “We’ll make it hard on him.”

Cap­i­tals goalie Braden Holtby didn’t get a chance to make nearly as many saves, given the shot dis­crep­ancy: Washington ended up with 38 to Tampa Bay’s 20. And Holtby al­lowed goals on two of the first five shots he faced, to Bray­den Point and to Stamkos. An­thony Cirelli added an empty-net­ter with a sec­ond left.

The go-ahead goal came thanks to a de­fen­sive break­down, when Kil­lorn was left pretty much alone and scored 6 sec­onds af­ter a Tampa Bay power play ex­pired, putting in a pass from On­drej Palat.

“Tonight was so im­por­tant,” Kil­lorn said. “Go­ing down 3-1 in a se­ries is tremen­dously dif­fer­ent from 2-2.”

Af­ter his score, Kil­lorn said, “We played our best hockey.” That’s true.

Washington’s goals had come from Evgeny Kuznetsov — off an as­sist by Ovechkin — in the sec­ond pe­riod, and de­fense­man Dmitry Orlov in the early go­ing. But late, the Cap­i­tals could not get the ty­ing goal in, even af­ter pulling Holtby with a lit­tle more than 2 min­utes to go so they could play 6-on-5.

“Of course,” Ovechkin said, “it’s a missed op­por­tu­nity.”

AP photo

The Light­ning’s Bray­den Point cel­e­brates his goal dur­ing Tampa Bay’s 4-2 win on Thurs­day.

AP photo

The Light­ning’s An­drei Vasilevskiy makes one of his 36 saves as Tampa Bay beat Washington 4-2 on Thurs­day.

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