It had been over two years since the Lightning last won a playoff game. Although this was not a playoff game, the stakes were high as the Lightning battles for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning beat the Washington Capitals in a shootout 3-2 in Toronto this afternoon and somewhat erased the memory of lasts years sweep at the hand of the Blue Jackets.
The Lightning jumped out to a 2-0 on goals by Nikita Kucherov, and Mitchell Stephens.
The first goal by Kucherov came on a steal by Braydon Point who passed it off to Kucherov. Kucherov then delivered a nasty shot that went over the shoulder of Holtby to take a 1-0 lead.
Mitchell Stephens playing in his first playoff game played well in his debut and scored the second goal for the Lightning to put them up 2-0 early in the second period.
One of the biggest draws in the game came with eight seconds to play in overtime when Kucherov was called for holding the stick, giving the Capitals a power play with eight seconds to play.
Stephens went out to take the faceoff and won the draw. The puck was cleared sending the game to a shootout.
The Lightning matched the physical play of the Capitals and proved to everyone that this is not the same old soft Lightning team that seems to show up every year in the playoffs.
Eric Cernak went after Tom Wilson in the second period. Wilson had delivered a hard hit to Kucherov along the boards pushing Wilson into the Lightning bench.
The Lightning played well the first half of the game but seemed to lose their focus and drop their intensity toward the end of the second period.
This lapse cost the Lightning, as the Capitals scored two goals in under two minutes to tie the game 2-2 after two periods.
The Capitals outshot the Lightning 33-28 as Andrei Vasilevskiy made some great saves to keep the game tied at 2-2.
The Capitals and the Lightning were two of the most penalized teams in the league this season. The Capitals were not called for one penalty in the game today.
The Capitals went 1/4 on the power play.
The refs seemed to swallow their whistles at times when it came to calling a penalty on the Capitals as the Lightning did not have a power-play opportunity.
Asked about having zero chances on the power play, Cooper said, “It’s the playoffs. You go into a playoff game thinking you’re getting none because you might not. And that’s what happened.”
Captain Steven Stamkos did not play in the game and is doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.
Pat Maroon on zoom after the game said he was pleased with the physical play of the Lightning. “All around, it felt like a playoff game.”
Maroon also said he liked the way the team responded physically and matched the Capitals physicality when they needed to.
Jon Cooper said he was happy to get the win and was pleased with the response the Lightning had to the Capitals physical play, but was not happy that the Lightning relinquished a 2-0 lead.
Next up for the Lightning, the Boston Bruins on Wednesday at 4 PM.