NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-17-18 Lightning at Capitals

Vasilarceniy in Washington.

Eastern Conference Final


Series Tied 2-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 38 shots for the victory. He might want that second goal he allowed to Kuznetsov back that leaked through his five hole, but in a game where the team was outshot 38-20 it took a Herculean effort by the young netminder to steal the W. Pure Vasilarceniy. He pulled the heist, drove the getaway car, and set up the Swiss bank account to stash the loot, too.

First Period
4:28 WSH Orlov (2), (Oshie, Niskanen)
5:38 TB Point (7), (Gourde, Johnson)
8:32 TB Stamkos (7), (Point, Miller)(PP)

Second Period
5:18 WSH Kuznetsov (10), (Ovechkin, Wilson)

Third Period
11:57 TB Killorn (5), (Palat, Sergachev)
19:58 TB Cirelli (2), (unassisted)(EN)

Vasilevskiy and Brayden Point were the game's first and second stars. Vasilevskiy should've been stars one through twenty tonight.

The Lightning did just about everything wrong they could do at times tonight and still found a way to battle through adversity and grind out an incredibly important win. They surrendered the early goal to put themselves in a lot of trouble with Washington's 1-1-3 trap looming, but soon thereafter got the benefit of a horrible Kempny turnover that allowed Point to equalize. After earning the lead with a PP that came off of strong 5v5 play the team got behind the eight ball with a string of three straight PK's at the end of the First Period that completely sapped the team's legs and contributed to one of the worst Second Periods the team could put on the ice, which carried over deep into the Third Period. There, almost halfway through the frame, the team dug deep and strung together three or four strong shifts to earn another power play and they got the eventual game winner just after the expiration of the minor. Then it was bite, claw, and scratch for every shot block and to clog up every passing lane as the team did what it took to protect their fragile lead and get it over the finish line.

On a tangent, how about that Lightning penalty kill? They went 4 for 4 tonight under extreme pressure in a tight game. Obviously Vasiy led the way in that effort, but the grit and the want-to of that unit after a luckluster regular season statistically is just fantastic to see. Keep it up.

One other note on the officiating in this series: the Caps are getting away with almost an early 90's amount of clutching and grabbing and interference. That's not even my issue, though. It's the playoffs and you've got to fight through the muggings sometimes because the refs simply aren't going to call it like a regular season game. I get it. My issue tonight was TJ Oshie clearly diving after skating over Victor Hedman's stick blade in a laughably obvious delayed reaction that would make a soccer player blush at its transparent phoniness. Yanni Gourde was initially called for the trip even though he never made contact with Oshie before he went down. So what did the refs do? They went to replay... to throw Hedman in the box instead of Gourde to hurt the Lightning by robbing them of their best defenseman on a key PK. Luckily the Lightning made the kill, so it didn't cost them at that point in the game, but let's be clear about what we witnessed tonight. That's not a reviewable play. The league literally made a protocol up on the fly to disadvantage the Tampa Bay Lightning in a critical Eastern Conference Final playoff game. And, hell, if you're going to review that play at least call it correctly for the dive it was. Oshie pulled the exact same routine in the Third Period on a play that went completely uncalled and frankly he should've gotten a stand-alone two minute minor for diving in that moment. In both cases, the slightest tap of a stick on the shin pads and the guy just goes dead weight and tumbles head first down toward the ice like he got shot by an assassin. It's disgusting to watch, and it's disgusting that the league went out of their way and outside of the boundaries of the rulebook to find a way to try to reward the Caps for it. It's a complete joke.

Now the Lightning have equalized the series and turned it into a three game series where the team will have home ice advantage. Obviously Game Five is going to be critical. The Lightning must make sure they stay at evens and get on their forecheck and they must make the Caps chase the game. If they do, they've got this.

Anthony Cirelli had the EN goal and was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:49. He was also 50% on six draws. Made some big defensive plays in the Third Period and just continues to do the work on both sides of the puck.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.