Alex Ovechkin, Capitals Crush Steven Stamkos, Lightning to Take 2-0 Lead in ECF

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2018

Washington Capitals right wing Devante Smith-Pelly (25) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals hockey playoff series Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Washington Capitals are road warriors.

Washington improved to 7-1 away from home in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday with a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena. It now has a commanding 2-0 lead in the series after capturing the first two on the road and is two wins away from its first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1998.

The Capitals turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead with three unanswered goals in the second period from Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov before Alex Ovechkin scored a dagger in the third.

Despite allowing goals to Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos in the first, Washington goaltender Braden Holtby was a stone wall for the remainder and stopped 33 of 35 shots he faced in the victory. Washington improved to 10-2 in games he's started between the pipes this postseason, as he continued his role of savior after his team lost both contests Philipp Grubauer started these playoffs.

Even with Holtby in net, Washington needed others to pick up some of the offensive slack after it announced center Nicklas Backstrom was still out with the hand injury that sidelined him in Game 1.

It wasted little time doing just that by establishing itself in the offensive zone with multiple chances at the start before Tom Wilson deflected a shot into the back of the net a mere 28 seconds into the contest.

That was the high point for the Capitals in the first period, though, as Wilson giveth and taketh away with a penalty that stopped his team's early momentum. Point took advantage of the much-needed power play with an equalizer from the slot before T.J. Oshie committed a penalty less than two minutes later.

The Lightning capitalized again when Stamkos buried a one-timer, but the problems started for the hosts when their first-period power plays stopped.

Washington dialed up the pressure in the offensive zone in the second, and Smith-Pelly tied it off an odd-man rush before Jakub Vrana gathered a loose puck and found Eller with a perfect pass right in front of the net for the go-ahead goal.

The Capitals offense was far too much for Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped just 31 of 37 shots he faced. He also picked up a critical tripping penalty after his team fell behind by one, which set up Kuznetsov's goal from a sharp angle.

Kuznetsov wasn't done providing breathing room as he found Ovechkin for a goal on a two-on-one break to add insult to injury for Vasilevskiy. Brett Connolly then had the pleasure of clearing out the Tampa Bay fans by beating Vasilevskiy top-shelf to push the lead to four.

The series now shifts to Capital One Arena for Tuesday's Game 3, where Washington can put the Lighting on the brink of elimination by taking care of business at home.

Tampa Bay bounced back from losing Game 1 to the Boston Bruins at home in the last series to win four straight, but doing something similar will be a tall task with momentum clearly on the Capitals' side after Sunday's blowout victory.

Related

    Stastny Returns for Golden Knights

    NHL logo
    NHL

    Stastny Returns for Golden Knights

    NHL.com
    via NHL.com

    Watch: DeBrincat Weaves Through D-Men for Goal

    NHL logo
    NHL

    Watch: DeBrincat Weaves Through D-Men for Goal

    NHL.com
    via NHL.com

    Shattenkirk Out 2-4 Weeks with Separated Left Shoulder

    NHL logo
    NHL

    Shattenkirk Out 2-4 Weeks with Separated Left Shoulder

    Newsday
    via Newsday

    Blues Players Start Whaling on Each Other in Practice

    NHL logo
    NHL

    Blues Players Start Whaling on Each Other in Practice

    Barry Petchesky
    via Deadspin