TAMPA – Imagine having a nagging feeling or a pit in your stomach for 300 days. There’s no medication nor cures save one you haven’t had the chance to digest yet.
It was that kind of feeling that has haunted the Lightning since May 19, 2018, the last time the team scored against the Capitals in last year’s conference finals series.
The reward had to taste oh so sweet Saturday night as the Lightning got its revenge in a 6-2 win against the Capitals on home ice.
Tyler Johnson set things in motion just a little more than halfway into the first period.
As T.J. Oshie was making his way down the ice toward Andrei Vasilevskiy, he was bombarded by Jan Rutta and Johnson at the blue line.
With the puck out in open ice, Nikita Kucherov scooped it up and passed it out to his left toward Brayden Point, who sprinted down the ice without anyone in his way but Washington’s Nicklas Stephenson and Dmitry Orlov.
Point outskated them as he made his way toward the goal and ultimately Braden Holtby, who stood at the read in-between the posts. Holtby’s eyes were on Point coming down the right side of the ice, but Point’s eyes were on Johnson just off to the left.
Point made a quick pass across the ice, just two feet outside of the crease. It was the perfect setup as Johnson notched the first goal on the night, as he notched the first goal for the Lightning against the Capitals in 300 days.
“I don’t think we focus on who we are playing, it’s just a matter of how we are playing," Johnson said after the win. “We focus on what we need to do, the little things that we need to do to improve on so that when playoffs do come around we are ready for it. Maybe you see Washington in the playoffs, maybe you don’t, you never know so it’s really just about focusing on us.”
Here are some odds and ends from Tampa Bay’s win/loss:
One last goal. Johnson may have said the Lightning don’t focus on the opponent, but Yanni Gourde’s actions tell a different story. Typically, when a team is up by two with under five seconds to go, it will let a loose puck go. Not on Saturday. Gourde sprinted down the ice to chase down said loose puck and land an empty-netter with 0.6 seconds left in the game. It’s hard to argue that anything was left on the ice for Tampa Bay after this 6-3 rematch.
Killorn gets his revenge, three times over. Killorn’s physicality and goal-scoring abilities fused together Saturday night as the veteran forward notched his first NHL career hat trick with the 6-3 win. To hear more about his historic night, read Diana C. Nearhos’s story here.
Leading in the first. The Lightning lead the NHL with goals scored in the first period. Tampa Bay leads the league with 95 goals notched in the first period. San Jose is behind the Lightning at 91 goals.
Černák gets on the board. Pure elation are the only words that can describe Erik Černák’s one-timer toward the beginning of the third period. He shot the puck from the right faceoff circle, just under Holtby’s pads as the Washington goaltender went to the ice to make the save. The Lightning defenseman has made quite a name for himself this season, proving to be a pivotal aspect to the d-line. The goal marked his fourth on the season.
Making history…again. The Lightning broke its previous franchise record of 54 wins on the season from 2017-18 with Saturday’s 6-3 win against the Capitals. Tampa Bay now has 55 wins on its season so far with 10 games remaining before the postseason.
Wilson strikes. About halfway through the first period Mikhail Sergachev took a big hit from Washington’s Tom Wilson. He was checked into the glass and immediately hit the ice, slow to get up after the contact. As boos resounded throughout Amalie Arena, Wilson avoided the penalty box and Sergachev headed straight to the locker room.
Ovechkin ties Esposito. Alex Ovechkin’s second-period power-play goal was the 246th of his career. That moves him into a tie for fifth place all-time ... with Phil Esposito. Dave Andreychuk leads the list with 274.
Stamkos not forcing it. No, Steven Stamkos didn’t score against the Capitals ... again. But he did a good job of not forcing bad shots just to get that goal. He took his shots but also passed when the shot wasn’t there.
Lightning beat writer Diana C. Nearhos contributed to this report.
Contact Mari Faiello at [email protected]. Follow @faiello_mari.