Washington Capitals: A Few Positives from the Loss in Tampa

The Washington Capitals dropped a 6-3 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night. While this was a loss, the defending Stanley Cup champs played the beast of the east tough.

While the Washington Capitals would’ve liked to have come away with two points in this big Saturday loss, there were a few positives to draw on. These positives will help them in their rematch on Wednesday night and could help them later in the spring, should these two teams meet again. I’ll point out three things that I believe were the Capitals’ strengths.

But before we even get to spring, there’s actually a series currently going on with the Lightning in itself even though it’s the regular season. Saturday’s contest was the first of three games in 15 days between the two clubs. It wasn’t that the Capitals played awful Saturday night. It was closer than the score indicated. Their passes and energy on the offensive end just didn’t match the Lightning, especially in the beginning of the game which saw the Capitals in a 2-0 hole.

Not only that but the last time those teams met on that ice in Amalie Arena, it was the Lightning and their fans who suffered the heartbreak. Losing 4-0 in your house in a Game 7 with a trip to the Stanley Cup on the line isn’t exactly a way one would like to end their season. It made sense that the Bolts would come out with fire and perhaps even a chip on their shoulder in the first meeting since.

Anyway I’m done with the negatives, here are the positives:

The Second Period: The Capitals had an awful first 20 minutes in the rematch which ended with Washington down 3-1. After the first period where the Capitals were outshot 16-9, the Capitals started getting more pucks to the net in the second period. In the middle, the Capitals outshot the Lightning 13-5 but only had one goal to show for it. Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, like he was during the Lightning’s three straight wins to put them in a 3-2 series hole last spring, was just too brilliant.

Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin loves the spotlight and that big Saturday night contest with the Lightning had the light shining brighter. Ovechkin knew he had to make an impact. Ovechkin scored twice, once in the second period on the power play and another in the third period that saw the Capitals pull within one before the Lightning sealed it with two empty net goals. Hey didn’t I say the game was closer than the score indicated?

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The Penalty Kill: It was once a weakness before the upgrades of Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen. Now the penalty kill improved. Up until their game on Tuesday night with the Penguins, Washington had killed all 16 penalties over their last five games. That streak ended in that Pittsburgh game with the Penguins striking twice on the man-advantage. Since that loss, the PK has rebounded. They killed all four penalties in Thursday’s contest with the Flyers but that was nothing compared to the test they faced on Saturday.

One of the biggest reasons why the Lightning have had the success they’ve had this season is not just the offense but how nice they are on the power play. The Lightning are ranked first on the power play and had a success-rate of 29 percent coming into Saturday’s game. The Capitals stopped all four Lightning power plays they faced. Despite the loss, this was a test the PK needed to pass and they not only passed it but aced it.

But enough about Capitals vs. Lightning from this site until after their game tomorrow night against the Devils.  Once that ends, they can re-shift their focus back to the rematch the next night.