The Tampa Bay Lightning (17-14-3) flew out to usher in the holidays with the Washington Capitals (19-8-4) on Friday night. Having won their last two, the Lighting hoped to continue the Christmas miracle with a win against a well-known foe. The Capitals have done the opposite, losing their last two. The puck was dropped and game number 35 was on!
First Period: This one turned sour for the Lightning just 55 seconds into the first as Washington’s John Carlson (1G, 14A) opened scoring with a howitzer slap shot from the point. The shot would initially be saved by goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (8 W, 2.38 GAA, .923 Sv%), but the sheer force of the impact caused the puck to squeeze past his glove and trickle into the net. Carlson wouldn’t stop there as he struck again in the final minutes of the first with another fearsome slap shot to make it 2-0 Washington. The first would end with a whimper as the Lightning faced quite a mountain to climb against a worthy adversary.
Second Period: For the second time in as many nights, the Lightning found themselves down by a pair heading into the second period. The last time they were faced with this task, they were able to come back and take the game. This night, however, they would have a harder time pulling that out of their hat. Especially as they would lose three key players in Victor Hedman (6 G, 23 A), Braydon Coburn (1 G, 4 A), and Jonathan Drouin (10 G, 10 A) to injuries. Alexander Ovechkin (14G, 9A) would add salt to the Lightning’s wounds as he found an opening past Vasilevskiy mid-way through the second to put Washington up by three. With twenty minutes left in the game, the Lightning went into their locker room beaten and determined to come out for the third with more offense.
Third Period: The Lightning came out with just 15 skaters to start the third. Luckily for them, Hedman decided to play through his injury and came back onto the ice to add some much-needed relief. Tampa Bay began to get more consistent play, but the storm cloud still lingered over their head as missed opportunities began to pile up. And those missed chances finally put the nail in the Lightning’s coffin during the third period. After an unsuccessful power play chance, they watched as Washington forward Marcus Johansson (12 G, 10 A) received a silver platter feed from Nicklas Backstrom (9 G, 18 A) as he got out of the penalty box, providing both the final goal of the game and the dagger to the Lightning’s chances. Vasilevskiy’s night would be done as Cooper opted to pull him for Kristers Gudlevskis with half the third still to be played. During the final moments, the Lightning would demonstrate the most offense they had all night, but in the end, Washington would win this one 4-0. Tampa Bay left the Verizon Center eager to put that one in their taillights.
Three Stars of The Game:
- Braden Holtby, 23 saves and a shutout
- John Carlson, 2 goals
- Nicklas Backstrom, 2 assists
Next up: Tampa Bay Lightning (17-15-3) vs. Montreal Canadiens (21-9-4) on Wednesday night at 7:30pm in Tampa.