Positives and Negatives: Caps pound Lightning in Game 6

Chris Russell
May 22, 2018 - 10:56 am
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From minute one to the final seconds, the Capitals laid the lumber and pounded the Tampa Bay Lightning into submission to force a series-deciding, winner-take-all Game 7 Wednesday night at Amalie Arena, for the right to play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.

Washington had 39 hits to 19 for the Lightning, with Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik leading the way with six each. Alex Ovechkin had four.

Wilson had two monster shifts in the game where he hit everything that moves and created a few scoring chances off of his physicality.

Orpik had several clean hip and body checks in open ice and along the boards, and even dropped the gloves and drew a five-minute fighting major with J.T. Miller.

Ovechkin was a heat-seeking missile at times, but the blow that perhaps incurred the most damage was inflicted upon him as he was illegally blindsided in the neutral zone by Dan Girardi on a missed call, with the puck not on his stick. Ovechkin was rightfully unhappy and it absolutely should have been interference.

It's something to monitor for Wednesday's do-or-die game, because the Great 8 only played 16:55, compared to Evgeny Kuznetsov's 20:43 and T.J. Oshie’s 20:44  among the forwards.

He was very short with the media afterwards, both in answers and in total questions allowed, speaking for just over a minute.  It may be a leap, but Ovechkin may not be 100 percent entering Game 7. Only that huge stage will tell.

What Game 6 told us: Oshie was phenomenal. Two goals, including the game-sealing empty netter, but also the all-important first score of the night and, just as important, it came on the power play.

The Caps' power play was awful in Washington during the previous two games (0-for-7) and they didn't get any opportunities in Game 5.

Washington thought they had scored quickly, and so did everyone else, including the off-ice officials who hit the red light and sounded the horn, only for play to continue. And then the real celebration began, as Nick Backstrom fed Oshie from his patented spot on the half-wall for a one-timer and bang. It was 1-0.

This is what was missing from the Capitals' extra-man advantage, as we had mentioned on 106.7 The Fan's "Beltway Blitz" on Monday.

The Caps took a commanding 2-0 lead when Chandler Stephenson outraced a Lightning defender behind the Tampa goal and quickly back-handed the puck to a streaking Devante Smith-Pelly, who slammed it home for his fourth goal of the playoffs and 10th of his career.

Stephenson -- a "Swiss Army knife," as Barry Trotz referred to him late Monday night -- was put back on the fourth line with Jay Beagle.

Braden Holtby was breathtaking, pitching his first shutout of the season when he needed it most, turning aside all 24 shots from Tampa. Holtby had a fantastic glove save, among 24 on the night, that he dismissed after the game as not being that difficult. He became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in an elimination game.

Other Caps players who had moments of greatness on Monday night:

Dmitry Orlov: After a tough Game 5, he had a few takeaways with good stick work early, 22:15 of ice-time, was a plus-one, had five shots on goal, and in a 1-0 game (at that point), may have saved the game. The Caps were on a long change, and Orlov hopped on the ice and raced all the way over to the opposite side to break up a a rush on the far side that was destined for disaster if Orlov did not get there.

Nick Backstrom: Two assists, on both Oshie goals, and seemed to be skating much better.

Jakub Vrana: He was flying at times on that second line with Backstrom and Oshie and wound up with four shots on goal, and played responsible defense.

Matt Niskanen: Plus-one, 24:12 of ice-time, including 03:14 short-handed on two huge penalty kills.

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