PHT's Three Stars: Killorn's goal, Vasilevskiy's saves lead Lightning in Game 4

Ruben Ruiz
May 18, 2018

Full credit to Vasilevskiy, who played his best game of the series by far. But in Game Four, he dealt with a higher volume of Washington Grade-A chances.

He wasn't the only reason, however. It's a missed opportunity.

Evgeny Kuznetsov's goal marked his seventh-straight game with at least one point and was his 21st point of this playoffs. They outshot the Lightning by an obscene 39-20 margin, and they also won 29 of 46 faceoffs in the first 40 minutes. Brayden Point knotted the game on a back door cut following a Capital turnover and quality passing from Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson. At times, it seemed like the puck never left Tampa Bay's blue line. That's one way to keep Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov in check ... While Wes Johnson, the PA Announcer, announced the scoring, Tampa Bay silenced the crowd.

Nicklas Backstrom - After missing the previous four games with a hand injury, the Capitals centre returned to the lineup and played almost 19 minutes in the Game Four loss to Tampa Bay. The fact that they killed off all three is a testament to the penalty killers and to Vasilevskiy, who made seven tough saves during the three kills.

But those consecutive kills, while successful, did disrupt the Lightning's rhythm that had been on display prior to those infractions.

Team doctors cleared Backstrom to play around lunchtime, and by pregame warmups he was drawing an ovation from fans thrilled to see him back in the lineup.

Stamkos went through a couple of nicks at the end of the season, but maintained he was ready to go come playoff time.

Washington was the better team. They outshot the Lightning 15-7, but they either misfired or chose to not shoot on several key opportunities. There was barely any contact made with Oshie's skate and Hedman's stick, and it looked like it was accidental. Shortly thereafter, the Lightning took another penalty, their fourth consecutive infraction. But why did only 2 of 38 shots go in? Surely he doesn't take that many hits off the smelling salts before the opening face-off every night, right?

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The Capitals' Tom Wilson tried to put a positive spin on things after the game.

With an unblemished 6-0 all-time record in games played in Washington's home rink, the Lightning probably figured they didn't have to resort to such tactics. Playing in a ruckus road environment proved to be the cure for his struggles as he denied 72 of 76 shots in the nation's capital. It could be the old sinking feeling again for the Capitals as they had a 2-0 series lead.

The Lightning did regroup in the intermission.

This is the fifth time since conference finals started in 1982 that the first three games were all won by the road team, according to STATS, Inc. In the third, Vasilevskiy used his left glove to swat away a try from Brett Connolly. But shortly thereafter, momentum turned.

Center Lars Eller, though, had been productive in Backstrom's absence. After Stamkos' first period power play goal, the Lightning were 6-13 in the series on the man advantage, so the Caps knew they needed a strong kill.

"I feel good", Backstrom said. Instead, Mikhail Sergachev slid the puck from the left point to Ondrej Palat behind the net. Meanwhile, Braden Holtby strolls out in front stifling a yawn ...

Vasilevskiy has stopped 36 shots in each of the past two games, both 4-2 wins for the Lightning.

Despite the praise for their netminder, the Lightning were well aware of their faults after games three and four. But then, who could blame them for booing that power play.

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