Three takeaways from the Washington Capitals outworking the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead.
It took Alex Ovechkin 13 seasons to reach the Conference Finals. It took him one game to get his first victory. The Washington Capitals skated circles around the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1, winning 4-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Game 1 wasn’t decided by one play, but it may have been decided by three quicks. With ten seconds remaining in the first period, Ryan McDonagh sprang Nikita Kucherov with a breakaway pass. Kucherov fought off Dmitry Orlov and flipped the puck past Braden Holtby to tie the game at one.
Only problem? The Lightning were whistled for too many men on the ice.
Evgeny Kuznetsov won the ensuing face-off in the offensive zone and Ovechkin wired the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The game went from 2-0 to 1-1 in four seconds. And the Lightning never recovered.
Washington would add two more goals in the second period to take a 4-0 lead into the third. Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat tried to spark a third period comeback, but it never really got going.
Simply put, the Capitals were the much better team in Game 1. And it showed on the ice, even if the final score didn’t full reflect it.
3. You have to shoot to score
The Tampa Bay Lightning did not take enough shots in Game 1. Shots to end the game were 32-21. Even that’s a bit misleading as over half the Tampa Bay shots came when they were down 4-0 in the third. At one point, the Capitals had as many goals as the Lightning had shots.
Part of the reason Tampa Bay could not gain traction was the defense of the Capitals. They bottled up the Lightning speed through the neutral zone and didn’t allow them time in the offensive zone.
All season, the Lightning have thrived on quick feet and quicker decisions. The Capitals didn’t allow them space to move or time to think. As a result, the Lightning began to overthink. Instead of making simple plays and getting pucks on net, they looked for the perfect shots. The perfect shot was rarely there.
At the other end of the ice, the Capitals did keep things simple. They got traffic in front and pucks on goal. Even their misses, like Ovechkin’s whiff on the power play, ended up in the back of the net thanks to the net presence of T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller.
Sometimes hockey is complicated. The better team doesn’t win 100 percent of the time because they run into a hot goaltender or the bounces don’t go their way or they play down to their competition. In Game 1, it was pretty simple. The team that shot the puck more, scored more.
As Michael Scott, quoting Wayne Gretzky, once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Expect the Lightning to forgo cocktails and get straight to the shots in Game 2.