Alex Ovechkin, Capitals Force Game 7 with Shutout Win vs. Lightning

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21:  T.J. Oshie #77 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his second period goal with teammate Nicklas Backstrom #19 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on May 21, 2018 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals lived to fight another day by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at home Monday night at Capital One Arena.

T.J. Oshie bookended the game with the Capitals' first and third goals, while Devante Smith-Pelly provided the second midway through the third period.

The Capitals were challenging Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy throughout the first period and into the second period to no avail. Finally, Oshie broke the deadlock 15:12 into the second period.

It was a great example of patient buildup play, as Washington waited until the perfect goalscoring opportunity presented itself. Nicklas Backstrom put the puck on a platter for Oshie to smash past Vasilevskiy. The NHL offered a second look at the opener:

With his team struggling to create much in the attacking zone, Vasilevskiy helped keep Tampa Bay in the game. Even when he lost his stick, Vasilevskiy found a way to deny the Capitals. He made a point-blank glove save on Evgeny Kuznetsov with 52 seconds remaining in the second period.

The NHL shared a replay of the impressive stop:

After Oshie's goal, Vasilevskiy got a little help from Brayden Point to make sure it remained a 1-0 game.

Vasilevskiy saved a one-timer by Jakub Vrana at the 19:21 mark of the second period but lost track of the puck as it slipped between his pads. Point came flying in to clear the puck and deny Oshie a second goal, the replay courtesy of NHL GIFs:

Vasilevskiy couldn't do much to stop Smith-Pelly's goal 10:02 into the third period. Chandler Stephenson helped the Capitals avoid an icing. Jay Beagle gave the puck to Stephenson behind the net, and Stephenson found an onrushing Smith-Pelly. Vasilevskiy had no time to react to the wrist shot.

After dropping three games in a row, this is exactly the kind of performance Washington needed ahead of a Game 7. It was by far the better team Monday night, and Vasilevskiy is a big reason the Capitals didn't win by four or five goals.

The Capitals out-shot the Lightning 34-24 and had 39 hits to 19 for their opponents.

The series now shifts back to Tampa on Wednesday night. The Capitals are 3-7 in Game 7s in the last 11 seasons, so the excitement from Monday's win will likely transform into a palpable level of anxiety over the next two days.

The question becomes whether Washington can repeat that performance, as well as whether Tampa Bay comes out this flat again with what is bound to be a raucous home crowd at Amalie Arena.

At the very least, the Lightning have to take some pressure off Vasilevskiy, because he alone won't be enough to slow down what appears to be a reinvigorated Capitals attack.

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