BRANDON — It could have been worse. That is how Lightning coach Jon Cooper views Andrei Vasilevskiy's performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.
Cooper said his team allowed more scoring chances to the Capitals during the second period of it 4-2 loss Friday than it did in four of the five games of the conference semifinal against the Bruins.
That's four entire games.
"So when you give up those chances, I look at 'Vasy' and say, 'God, 4-2? How was it not 8-2?' " Cooper said Saturday.
It is the honor code of hockey players and coaches to never point fingers at a goalie after a loss, and that held true after Vasilevskiy allowed four goals on 25 shots before sitting out the third period.
"We didn't play very well in front of him," forward J.T. Miller said.
That is true.
The Lightning did not.
"Each win isn't the mountaintop. Each loss isn't the earth opening and swallowing you," writes @mjfennelly . It just looks that way from here. https://t.co/VtHXgCP5ss @TBLightning @Capitals #GoBolts #Capitals @NHL pic.twitter.com/COWXWwMvIM— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) May 12, 2018
The Capitals twice scored when the Lightning defense failed to clear the puck from the crease. They scored when Vasilevskiy could not find the puck because of the five players standing in front of him: two Capitals and three of his teammates.
They scored on an Alex Ovechkin one-timer on a power play.
"We were making our shots and getting them through to the net," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. "Offensively, when guys had chances, they took them."
Vasilevskiy, 8-2 during the first two rounds of the playoffs, briefly talked about his Game 1 performance after practice Saturday. He did so in his standard flat tone with his gaze fixed on something distant, as if waiting for Ovechkin to one-time another puck his way.
When asked to assess his play, he said, "They had pretty good scoring chances, but I gave up four playing two periods, so I guess I have to play better next game."
That game is Sunday night at Amalie Arena.
When asked if it is easy to put a tough playoff loss behind him, he said, "It's not easy, but I have to do that."
When asked if he could, he said, "Well, if you want to be a good goalie in this league, for sure."
When asked his reaction to being pulled for backup Louis Domingue, he said, "Umm … I don't know. I don't care."
A low pulse rate and the ability to remain on flat ground are must-haves for any goalie who wants to lead his team to Stanley Cup glory. Vasilevskiy has them.
Should Lightning fans be worried about Vasilevskiy? Probably not, given the way he responded after allowing five goals in the Game 1 loss to the Bruins. He allowed seven goals total over the next four games, and zero at even strength over the final three.
It was brutal loss, Tom Jones writes, the kind that shakes confidences and plants doubts. The good news is, the Lightning has been in this spot before. #TBLightning #GoBolts #ALLCAPS #TBLvsWSH @TomWJones @TB_Times https://t.co/RR3uL5cVeS— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) May 12, 2018
"It was one game," is what Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Saturday when asked how his team was able to get four pucks past Vasilevskiy in less than 40 minutes.
Capitals center Lars Eller, who scored off a scramble in front of the net, said his team did its homework on Vasilevskiy.
"He's up there with the best in the league," Eller said. "I'm sure he's not happy with (Friday), but like with any other goalie, we scored on him on some rebounds, one-timers, screens. That's hard for any goalie."
That is how you beat a goalie like Vasilevskiy. You get traffic in front of him, make it harder for him to see the puck and jump on any chance you get. That is how the Capitals scored three of their four goals.
The other goal, a back-breaking power-play goal by Ovechkin with two seconds left in the first period, was Ovi being Ovi. "He was in his office," Oshie said.
How did the Capitals manage to score four times against the Vezina Trophy finalist in less than 40 minutes?
"Well," Cooper said, "because we gave them chance after chance after chance. Superman has kryptonite, too. We can't depend on (Vasilevskiy) to stop the barrage of chances he was getting."
Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50.
Eastern Conference final
CAPITALS 1, Lightning 0
Game 1: Capitals 4, Lightning 2
Sunday: at Tampa, 8, NBCSN
Tuesday: at Washington, 8, NBCSN
Thursday: at Washington, 8, NBCSN
May 19: at Tampa, 7:15, NBC*
May 21: at Washington, 8, NBCSN*
May 23: at Tampa, 8, NBCSN*
* If necessary