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Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

Fans cheers as Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) shoots and scores beating Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (70) for the second goal of the game during first period action in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena inTampa Saturday evening (05/19/18). DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Fans cheers as Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) shoots and scores beating Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (70) for the second goal of the game during first period action in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena inTampa Saturday evening (05/19/18). DIRK SHADD | Times
Published May 20, 2018
Updated May 20, 2018

TAMPA — Faster than Justify down the stretch at the Preakness, quicker than Harry and Meghan walked down the aisle at Windsor Castle, the Lightning jumped on Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. No runaway gallop. No funny hats. Just hockey with a purpose in what became a precarious, but convincing 3-2 win over Washington.

Cedric Paquette, the team's dump-truck fourth-line center, scored 19 seconds into the first shift Saturday night, and it went from there after a spectacular first period. But it was a grinding kind of night, and Lightning grinders were out in force.

Ondrej Palat added a goal right after what could have been a tripping penalty on Steven Stamkos. That's the way it's going right now. Game 5 was a Lightning sequence, good for a 3-2 series lead and a chance to make the Cup final with a win Monday night in Washington.

19 seconds

The line of Paquette, Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz was matched against Capital torpedoes Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. Synopsis: Ovechkin didn't have a shot on goal through two periods. Added bonus: Callahan chipped one to Paquette for the wrist shot that beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby just 19 seconds in. Game on, tone set. Grade: A.

33 seconds

Who said Lightning can't strike twice? In the first minute of the second period, Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, a rock all night on the back line,  swept in for a chance on Holtby, who made the stop, but the puck popped up and banged in off Callahan, who was huge all night. It was a grinder's goal if there ever was one. The play was reviewed, the goal was upheld for a 3-0 lead. It was somewhat righteous Lightning payback for those late-in-periods Caps goals as Washington won the first two games in Tampa. Grade: A

Did we mention speed?

The Lightning just looked faster than the Caps for a period and a half before the Caps came on. Faster to the puck, faster to the transition, faster to the task at hand. It was just what was needed after Washington dominated at times despite losing twice in D.C. The Caps had no time to go on the forecheck. The Lightning was out of the zone and up the ice. I'm not sure if the Lightning was Vegas fast, but that story has yet to be told, by the Lightning or Vegas. Speed kills. Grade: A

A break for 88? Well …

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall for the Lightning in Washington, stopping 72 of 76 shots. His teammates left him out on a limb too often. For the most part, they corrected it in Game 5, playing strong stand-up defense, even when Mikhail Sergachev was sliding to stop a pass, though Victor Hedman's failure to clear led to Washington's first goal. But, when Vasilevskiy needed to step up, he did, like on the stop he — and then the crossbar — made off a Christian Djoos shot and one he made on John Carlson. Then, at the very end, he was there again. Make it 28 saves for the kid. Grade: B

Columnist Tom Jones and staff writer Roger Mooney break down the Lightning’s 3-2 victory as the series heads back to Washington with Tampa Bay leading 3-2

Posted by Tampa Bay Times - Sports on Saturday, May 19, 2018

What were they thinking?

The Lightning, after all that work, had to hold on for this win. You can't just give Washington space. You can't hand the Caps seemingly endless possession time late in the game after Ovechkin's goal drew the Caps to within 3-2. But even in the deep, dark place to end the game, Lightning defenders stepped in, including Dan Girardi's gutsy block of a late Ovechkin shot. Grade: B

Winner beware

This would be a true Caps-being-Caps moment if the Lightning close this out Monday. Washington led this series 2-0 heading home. Is it time for Ovechkin to guarantee a win, as he did after his team fell behind Columbus 2-0 in the first round? Stay tuned. By the way, the last time the Lightning grabbed a 3-2 lead in an Eastern Conference final, in 2015, it beat the Rangers in Game 7 in New York, but only after not showing up in Game 6 in Tampa. Might be a good idea for Lightning coach Jon Cooper to break out that Game 6 tape for his team as a healthy reminder. Grade: C

Last year's World Championship was a great experience for plenty of Lightning stars. But none more so than head coach Jon Cooper.

Posted by Tampa Bay Times - Sports on Saturday, May 19, 2018

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com. Follow @mjfennelly.