Caps blank Lightning 3-0, force decisive Game 7By Field Level Media
May 22. 2018 12:02AM
Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 24 saves in a 3-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, forcing a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Capitals won Game 6 on Monday night at Capital One Arena in Washington, marking their first home victory of the series.
T.J. Oshie scored twice, including an empty-net tally, and Devante Smith-Pelly also produced a goal for the Capitals, who will return to Tampa, Fla., for Wednesday night’s series finale.
“We have to use it to our advantage,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of returning home.
The winner meets the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots, but his teammates couldn’t find an opening at the other end.
Tampa Bay had won three games in a row in the series.
“They were the more desperate team tonight,” Lightning star Steven Stamkos said of the Capitals after the game. “They played like their backs were against the wall. ... Our desperation level needs to be higher.”
Entering the game, the Lightning held a 7-0 record all-time against the Capitals in postseason games in Washington.
The Lightning advanced through the first two rounds by winning in their first chances in clinching games. This time, Tampa Bay will have to work a little extra if it wants to move on to hockey’s ultimate round.
Oshie scored on a power play — Washington’s only chance on the man advantage for the game — with 4:48 to play in the second period. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov assisted on the goal.
It was Backstrom’s first point in the series after he missed the first three games coming off an injury suffered during the Pittsburgh series. He was minus-1 in both of the other games he played against the Lightning. He was also credited with an assist on Oshie’s empty-net goal, Backstrom’s 12th assist of the postseason.
“I think once we scored that first goal, we didn’t give up the physical side of the game,” Oshie said. “We kept pounding them and played physical and that wears you down.”
Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly scored when he broke free skating toward the net and received a pass from Chandler Stephenson.
In a scoreless first period, the Capitals registered eight of the 14 total shots. There were stretches without solid scoring chances with tight checking.
Most the action from the opening period came with a rare postseason fight when Tampa Bay’s J.T. Miller and Washington’s Brooks Orpik tangled with 4:12 remaining.
The Capitals held a 15-8 edge in second-period shots.