TTAMPA — The Lightning entered Sunday’s rematch with the Capitals less concerned about hot tempers carrying over from the meeting two nights earlier than in correcting the mistakes that led to the four-goal loss in Washington.
Yes, Tampa Bay was still upset about the illegal head hit that knocked defenseman Cal Foote out of Friday’s game. But it was more focused on punishing Washington in a different way in the opening period Sunday.
Playing in front of their home crowd, the Lightning ran out to their best start of the season, scoring a season-high four goals in the first period of a commanding 6-3 win at Amalie Arena.
“I think we were extremely irritated by the way we played (Friday),” coach Jon Cooper said. “And it wasn’t anything of a physical nature, what happened the game before. It was how we played; it was how we got to that point. And I thought our response (Sunday) was what we needed.”
Mikhail Sergachev had two goals and two assists in the first period, tying the NHL record for most points by a defenseman in one period.
And rookie forward Cole Koepke, who failed to convert on two glorious scoring chances Friday, recorded his first NHL goal in the third period, though it took video review to credit him.
The Lightning (8-6-1) got a much-needed spark from their struggling power play, which scored two of the first-period goals. After going 0-for-8 with the man advantage over their previous two games and 5-for-35 over their last nine, Tampa Bay scored on its first two power-play opportunities Sunday.
The penalty kill was 6-for-6, holding the Capitals’ power play scoreless over 10 minutes of man-advantage time. Tampa Bay killed all 12 of its penalties in the two games against Washington.
“We had a good meeting (Sunday) morning about what we need to do, and guys showed up and played really well in the first,” Sergachev said. “We didn’t let them breathe a lot. The power play stepped up, the (penalty kill) stepped up. So it was a good night, for the most part.”
Three of the Lightning’s first-period goals were scored by defensemen, including rookie Nick Perbix’s fortuitous bounce off an opponent’s skate and into the net, giving the Lightning a 3-0 lead.
The Lightning didn’t close out the game well, allowing two goals in the final three minutes, leaving them unsatisfied.
“I think we learned a good lesson in how to respond,” Cooper said. “And now we have to learn how to really close out games, and we didn’t close out the game the way we should have. … But the goal in this league is to win. And we found a way to win (Sunday).”
With the Lightning up 4-1, Koepke flung a backhanded shot shortside that initially appeared to hit the post and bounce away. Play resumed, and seconds later Lightning forward Brandon Hagel’s shot from the right circle went in the net.
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But video review of the goal showed that Koepke’s initial shot went in, then caromed off the camera inside the net and bounced out. He was on the bench when he realized he had scored his first NHL goal.
“I kind of thought I hit the pipe, because I looked for a second and the refs didn’t wave or anything and everyone else kept playing,” Koepke said. “So I got back to the bench and wasn’t super happy. (Cooper) and the guys were hitting me on the shoulder, like, ‘That’s your goal.’ I was pretty confused for a second.”
Koepke said he planned to send the puck home with family who attended the game. It was the first game Koepke’s father, Jim, attended in Tampa.
While the Lightning harnessed their emotions for the game, they didn’t back down.
Forward Pat Maroon, who fought Capitals defenseman Matt Irwin at the first-period horn, didn’t like Washington forward Garnet Hathaway’s hit on Koepke near the Washington bench in the final minutes of the second. Maroon went after Hathaway, while Lightning forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tangled with Irwin.
Maroon tangled with Hathaway after the hit on Foote on Friday, and both ended up being fined by the league.
“I think playing the right way to start (the game), playing with a little jam, playing with the puck and playing some offense and getting to the front of the net, those were things we all talked about,” Maroon said. “I felt we did a good job. We got off to an early start. But again, I think the last few goals are kind of the lapses we’ve been having. We’ve got to get that out of the game.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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