TAMPA — A two-goal lead was suddenly only one, and the Washington Capitals, having pulled their goalie, had a furious 96-second siege.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made the last three of his 28 saves to preserve the Lightning's 3-2 victory Saturday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final, but the biggest play came with 19 seconds left.
Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's top goal scorer in the regular season, who had just scored to pull within a goal, lined up for a shot, and what stopped the Capitals from rallying from behind was … defenseman Dan Girardi's behind, for a key blocked shot.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh blocked the first shot of the final surge, and defenseman Victor Hedman blocked the last shot with one second left, securing the first home win of the series.
"It's tough. You throw the six guys they have when they play 6-on-5. Somebody's going to be open at some point," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "(Vasilevskiy) is the last line of defense … just laser focus from our guy. You need the big save at the end. His team propelled us to that lead in front of him, and he gave it to us to close it out."
Down 3-1 in the third, Washington pulled goalie Braden Holtby with 2:14 to play, and Vasilevskiy stopped the first shot from Ovechkin, but the next went in to cut the Lightning lead to 3-2.
On a night where the Lightning did not commit a penalty and did not have to kill off a traditional power play, it played the final 96 seconds with unselfish, sacrificing hockey, neutralizing the 6-on-5 and holding on for a pivotal victory that puts them one win from the Stanley Cup final.
"That's what you need is guys to step up and be in those lanes, and Vasy was there, too," defenseman Anton Stralman said.
Contact Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.