Bolts battered by Caps, must survive a Game Seven

by Gary Shelton on May 22, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy played well, but the Bolts didn't score./CARMEN MANDATO

Vasilevskiy played well, but the Bolts didn't score./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

And so it comes to this.

One last showdown in the street. One last sword fight on top of the castle walls. One chance to slay the monster in the final reel.

Ah, Game Seven.

And now we find out who is better?

The Tampa Bay Lightning, with a chance to close out the series, were beaten soundly by the Washington Capitals Monday night. The Lightning failed to match the Caps' physicality, its urgency, its precision or its presence on the ice.

“We were no good," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "We didn’t play with near the desperation they did. Was it a fairly even game? No question. What were the hits? (39-19 in favor of the Caps). Someone was engaged and someone wasn’t. You can spin this any way you want."

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Callahan is looking forward to Game 7./CARMEN MANDATO

Callahan is looking forward to Game 7./CARMEN MANDATO

The Caps stopped the Bolts' three-game win streak. Washington owned stretches of Game Three and Game Four (both won by the Lightning). But after an even first period, the Caps took over.  T.J. Oshie scored on a power play in the second period.

“Well you’ve got to fight through that stuff," Cooper said. "First of all, you’ve got to shoot the puck. And then when we do shoot the puck, like we’re having way too many blocked and we’re missing the net way too much. We’ve got to execute, that’s part of it. People say executing is passing the puck and putting it on the tape. Executing is getting pucks on net, putting them where you can get back. We just haven’t been near aggressive enough at that. We’ll get lots of zone time and we’ll zip it around and cycle it behind the net, and it looks good for 25, 30 seconds and then it’s out.”

Cooper yells for more urgency./CARMEN MANDATO

Cooper yells for more urgency./CARMEN MANDATO

In the third, Devante Smith-Pelly added another goal. Oshie then added an empty-netter for the final.

"We started turning pucks over and just doing things that when you’re playing the right way, you don’t do," Cooper said. "Things we haven’t done in the last few games and it starts to catch up. So all of a sudden now, you turn the puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone. That’s what hurt us. We had some chances in the third. That first half of the third period, we were pushing. They were spending all the time in the D zone. They were icing the puck all the time, and we just couldn’t find it. The second goal was a backbreaker. That was just a bad one to give up.”

Point led the Bolts with three shots./CARMEN MANDATO

Point led the Bolts with three shots./CARMEN MANDATO

The Caps played like they were in a stay-alive situation. The Bolts played as if they had a safety net.

It was a mistake. A team that leads a series has to adopt a step-on-the-neck mentality. Who knows whether the Bolts get another quality chance to take the series.

"They were the more desperate team tonight," said Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, who got off only one shot (as did Nikita Kucherov). "They played extremely hard with their backs against the wall. They played like it could be their last game. Our desperation level needs to be higher, obviously. I expect it will be next game."

For the Bolts, it may be as simple as that. If you chart the games where the Bolts have been focused and desperate, they've done fairly well. In games where they have showed up and played without urgency, they have lost.

McDonagh doesn't want to feel this way again./CARMEN MANDATO

McDonagh doesn't want to feel this way again./CARMEN MANDATO

Washington led in blocked shots. They led in takeaways. Obviously, they led in goals.

The Caps had 33 shots to Tampa Bay's 24. Tampa Bay had 10 shots in the third period, less than that in each of the other two periods.

"I think they were desperate," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "They played desperate hockey and we should have matched it and we didn’t. They played like their lives were on the line and we played like we had another chance."

After the second period, the Caps knocked the Lightning around fairly severely.

"We have to take this feeling with us and make sure it doesn’t repeat," said defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

“We’ve got a formula, we’ve got solutions, now it’s just determination," Cooper said. "The margin for error is so slim now, you can’t cheat it. It’s hard because there’s times during the 100 games we’ve played this year, it’s easy to jump on the wrong side of somebody, it’s easy to try to slide the puck in where maybe you shouldn’t, maybe you should get it deep and you have to work to get it back. Those are the things that have to go down in Game 7. But I’ve watched our group do it and am extremely confident they’ll play the right way.”

Game time is 8 p.m. Wednesday at Amalie Arena.


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