Story highlights: The Washington Capitals have a habit of bouncing back from bad losses with strong follow-up games, and they’ll need one for the Caps to keep their season alive after a frustrating 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5.
By Bill Sands
After jumping out to 2-0 series lead, the Washington Capitals returned to Tampa Bay with the series tied 2-2. Most fans expected this to be a close series, and it has not disappointed in that regard. Unfortunately for Caps fans, the team missed a golden opportunity to close the series out on home ice and instead dropped both games, setting up a crucial Game 5.
In the biggest game of the year, the Capitals came out flat at the absolute worst time – especially in the first period. A sloppy play by Dmitry Orlov in the neutral zone gave Cedric Paquette a mini-breakaway, which he promptly buried to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead just 19 seconds into the game. Ondrej Palat converted again at the 9:04 mark to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
Capitals Outshot Badly by Lightning in the First
At the end of the period, the Caps were down by 2 and being outshot 13-4 – with just one of their shots coming from the stick of a forward, and that was definitely not the start Barry Trotz had envisioned.
Instead of bouncing back after the intermission, the Capitals again looked sluggish to start the second period. So much so, they allowed Tampa Bay’s fourth line to score just 33 seconds into the stanza, this time off a goal from Ryan Callahan.
Vasilevsky Sublime in Net for Tampa Bay
To their credit, the Caps pushed back and refused to go away for the remainder of the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored four minutes after Callahan’s tally to break the shutout and put Washington on the board. While the Capitals did not dominate the same way they did in Game 4, they certainly had the better of the chances. Tampa Bay’s inspired netminder, Andrei Vasilevsky, had another strong game and ended up making 28 saves on 30 shots. Such is the confidence that Tampa Bay has in its goaltender, the team sat back and allowed the Caps to come to them – which makes the Caps inability to take advantage all the more frustrating.
Alex Ovechkin added a goal late in the third for the Caps, and Washington had a couple of close calls after that, but the team was ultimately unable to score a tying goal. Despite once again looking like the stronger team, a few bad plays at inopportune moments (and some bad luck with a few players hitting the crossbar during the game) cost the Caps Game 5.
Time for Caps to Bounce Back
Washington heads home for Game 6 on Monday night after the 3-2 loss that also has them down 3-2 in the series. This team has had a habit of bouncing back from bad losses with strong follow-up games, and they’ll need one if they want to keep their season alive. That said, it wouldn’t be a Caps postseason without at least one Game 7.