TAMPA — Too many men on the ice?
Try too few men on their game.
That was the story of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, lost by the lifeless Lightning on Friday night.
The Capitals were supposed to be the team that had already climbed the mountain in exorcising the Penguins. The Lightning was the team that understood the greater mission, one shaped like a Cup.
The Caps, without a hint of a hangover, took the play to the Lightning. The Lightning gave Washington too much space and dug what turned out to be an inescapable hole after a handful of telling seconds late in the first period. The Caps eventually chased Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Final: Washington 4, Sleepwalkers 2.
I won't even tell you about the Capitals' Lincoln Memorial watch party. Abe reportedly was constantly out of his seat. Here's the grades:
No shot at all. Or was it two?
You can't come out and play like this. You shoot the puck. You shoot the puck or what are you doing? That ran through a lot of minds as the Lightning managed just two shots in the first period. The Caps were all over the place, the Lightning was nowhere. Vasilevskiy had to make some big saves, or the first 20 minutes would not have been close. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby? Just watching. Eventually, Steven Stamkos beat him, scoring one for pride. Grade: D
Late, late in the first period, the Lightning erased a perfectly sweet goal by breakaway Nikita Kucherov that would have tied it 1-1. Tampa Bay was correctly called for too many men on the ice. Did we mention that Washington is really good on the power play? Grade: D
Not-so-simple math, Part II
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals scored two seconds into their first power play, with six seconds left in the period. Ovechkin was left all alone for his patented one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy. By the way, earlier, the Lightning was so busy trying to keep Ovechkin away from the net that it bforgot the point shot from Caps defenseman Michal Kempny, which beat Vasilevskiy. Throw in another Washington power-play goal in the second period. The Lightning loses this series, going away, if it lets the Caps operate with the man advantage. And consider that Washington did it all without injured star center Nicklas Backstrom. Sweet dreams. Grade: F
One of those nights
Two flubbed Washington shots ended up in the back of the net, making it 4-0 and effectively taking the home crowd out of the game for good. That was enough for Lightning coach Jon Cooper to lift Vasilevskiy after the second period in favor of Louis Domingue. Vasilevskiy rebounded sharply after Boston overwhelmed him in the opener in the last round. But it's an early call to arms for the young net-minder, who got some rest. He'll have to be all in for Game 2. Some sturdier Lightning defense would help the kid immensely. Vasilevskiy has shown great bounceback. Time for some more. Grade: C
Wasn’t the Lightning supposed to have the defense?
The Capitals defense, arguably thinner than the Lightning back line, did a solid job hemming in the Lightning and blocked 11 shots in the first period alone. Tampa Bay defensemen chipped in by generating little or no offense. Grade: D
Wax on, wax off?
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said that his team getting "waxed" out of the gate by Boston informed the Lightning that it needed to raise its game, fast. Well, then Tampa Bay is perfectly set up for Game 2, isn't it? Calling all leaders, calling all leaders. Grade: D
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] Follow @mjfennelly.