There was no letdown for the Washington Capitals. Just more winning hockey.
Putting an emotional second-round victory over playoff nemesis and two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh behind them Carlton Davis Color Rush Jersey
, the Caps got a power-play goal and assist from Alex Ovechkin in his Eastern Conference finals debut and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Friday night.
Braden Holtby stopped 19 shots and Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle and Lars Eller also scored for the Caps, who are alive beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time in Ovechkin’s brilliant 13-year career.
”We had a really good start. We didn’t give them much,” Ovechkin said.
”I think it’s we realized we just have to play our way,” the Washington captain added. ”It doesn’t matter which position we are, which round it is. Everybody was paying the price.”
Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat scored for Tampa Bay, which trailed 4-0 heading into the third period.
Game 2 is Sunday night at Amalie Arena, where Tampa Bay also lost Game 1 in the second round against Boston.
”It’s just one game. That’s the way we have to look at it,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ”We’ve got to get back to what got us to the conference final.”
The Capitals dominated in improving to 6-1 on the road this postseason, with Kempny giving them an early 1-0 lead.
Ovechkin made it 2-0 a mere 5 seconds after the Lightning thought they had tied it in the closing seconds of the opening period. But Nikita Kucherov’s would-be breakaway goal was waved off because Tampa Bay had too many men on the ice.
T.J. Oshie won the ensuing faceoff in the Lightning zone, getting the puck to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who fed Ovechkin for the Washington superstar’s ninth goal this postseason – 55th overall in 110 career playoff games – at 19:54 of the first.
”That gave us a real boost … gave us some breathing room Kentavius Street Color Rush Jersey
,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
Beagle and Eller scored in the first seven minutes of the second period for a 4-0 lead. Up to that point, the Lightning – the NHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season – had allowed as many goals as they had shots.
Tampa Bay replaced goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy with Louis Domingue after the starter allowed four goals on 25 shots through two periods.
Holtby lost his shutout when Stamkos, assisted by Kucherov and Victor Hedman, scored at 3:45 of the third. Palat added his goal at 13:03, trimming Washington’s lead to 4-2.
Stamkos and Kucherov had one shot between them in the first two periods.
The Lightning dropped the opener of a series for the second straight round. They rebounded from a lopsided Game 1 loss at home to Boston by winning four straight to advance to the conference finals for the third time in four years.
The Capitals defeated Columbus and Pittsburgh in six games to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1998, when they beat the Buffalo Sabres.
”That’s a good hockey team over there, and they outplayed us tonight,” Stamkos said. ”In hindsight, we were in this same position in the last round and found a way to respond.”
Added Lightning winger Ryan Callahan: ”We’ve just got to put it behind us. We’ve been in this situation before, unfortunately. You don’t want to be, but you don’t have to look too far to draw back on the way we responded against Boston. We have to do the same here.”
NOTES: Ovechkin has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 13 playoff games. Kuznetsov had two assists Authentic Sam Darnold Jersey
, giving him nine this postseason. … The teams are meeting in the playoffs for just the third time, first since 2011. Tampa Bay won both previous meetings, including a sweep in the Eastern Conference semifinals seven years ago. Stamkos and Hedman are the only players remaining on the Lightning roster from that series. … The Capitals played without top center Nicklas Backstrom (hand), who’s considered day-to-day. Winger Tom Wilson, meanwhile, returned from a three-game suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese during in the second round. … The Caps have outscored opponents 14-3 in the opening period this postseason. They’ve won seven of 10 games in which they’ve scored first.
Klay Thompson flashed back to a night he left the arena still in uniform, furious about his forgettable performance against Denver.
It used to be he struggled to shake off a bad night, or even a bad start to a game.
Now, he just keeps shooting. Whenever he feels like it, from wherever. No conscience. A hand or two in his face, no matter.
”I was not always like this. I used to be so hard on myself, especially early in my career Chris Herndon Color Rush Jersey
,” Thompson said. ”… I learned, as I get older, if you play with passion, you play hard, and you leave the game saying I gave everything I have tonight in those 48 minutes, you can live with the result.”
The Warriors‘ season lives on largely thanks to Thompson’s shooting touch. Golden State is one win from a fourth straight NBA Finals, headed back to Houston for Monday night’s Game 7.
He came through with the defending champions’ season on the line in another do-or-die Game 6, just as he did two years ago at Oklahoma City. This time he scored 35 points with nine 3-pointers as the Warriors rallied with a huge second half to beat the Rockets 115-86 on Saturday night to force a deciding game in the Western Conference finals.
His defense shined, too. Oh, and the typically subdued Thompson let his emotions flow for all to see: He flexed his biceps Draymond Green style, pumped his arms like Kevin Durant and yelled out the way Stephen Curry often does at Oracle Arena.
Thompson has long been content to be the understated All-Star among the four in Golden State’s starting lineup.
”I just wanted to play with as much passion as I could tonight. Probably sounded more vocal than I usually am,” Thompson acknowledged. ”When your back’s against the wall Jay Buhner Seattle Mariners Jersey
, if your shot’s not falling, you can always control your passion and how hard you play. Usually when I do that, it trickles over to other aspects of my game.”
Curry’s Splash Brother did it in 2016 when he scored 41 points against Durant’s former Thunder team with the Warriors facing elimination. They went on to win Game 7 before falling to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in a seven-game NBA Finals.
Durant had no interest in recollecting, smiling and laughing with Curry as he said, ”next question.”
As for Curry?
”I think we both blocked that whole year out of our memory,” the two-time MVP quipped.
No arguing they both appreciate Thompson’s no-fear shooting approach and ability to almost single-handedly turn the tide of a game with a timely 3-pointer or two – or nine.
Once Golden State got going in transition, following clutch defensive stops, Thompson found the looks he so prefers from long range.
”I feel like we’re the best team in the world and most fun team in the world to watch when we’re pushing that ball, getting defensive stops and making plays,” he said. ”We’ve got too much talent not just to hit singles like Coach always says. Trust the next man ahead of us. It will end up working in our favor most of the time.”
Thompson shot 13 for 23 and 9 of 14 from deep as the Warriors responded from an early 17-point deficit to dominate James Harden and Houston the final three quarters, outscoring the Rockets 93-47 after trailing 39-22 at the end of the first.
Thompson went a combined 20 of 32 from 3-point range in those two impressive Game 6 shows, Saturday and in 2016.
”I think Klay doesn’t worry too much about repercussions. He doesn’t worry about judgment and results. I think he just loves to play http://www.raidersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-johnny-townsend-jersey
,” coach Steve Kerr said. ”He’s so comfortable in his own skin. I just think he wants to go out there and hoop, and he doesn’t worry about much else. So the pressure doesn’t seem to bother him much. He just competes and plays. As I said, the two-way ability of this guy hounding the MVP of the league, most likely, all game, and continuing to rain down 3-pointers, he’s amazing.”