- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Tampa Bay Lightning made two crucial, if not dumb, mistakes Friday in the Capitals’ 4-2 win in Game 1: they left Alex Ovechkin open twice on the power play.

Ovechkin scored one power-play goal and assisted on another. The Capitals star has created his legacy, in part, with production from his “office” — the left face-off circle where he can fire his devastating shot. The more room he has, the more damage he leaves in his wake.

The two power-play goals might have been the difference-maker in a two-score margin.

And as has been the case throughout the postseason, the Capitals’ power play has been on fire — scoring in 11 of their 13 games.

They are converting 32.6 percent of those chances, up from 22.5 percent in the regular season.

The sample size, obviously, is over a smaller number games, but defenseman John Carlson said there’s a reason for the Capitals’ improved percentage in the postseason: there’s more time to study.

“It’s a little bit of a chess match,” Carlson said. “It’s not easier to read other teams, but it’s probably a lot fresher on pre-scouts. The more you can see, and the more familiar you get with something, if you’re a good player you have to take advantage of it a little more.”

The Lightning’s penalty kill was definitely a weakness heading into the series. They had killed off just 74.2 percent of their penalties in the first two rounds, and finished 28th in the regular season on the kill. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said discipline was going to be a major factor in this series.

Washington found openings, in large part, because of Ovechkin. With seconds left in the first, Ovechkin drilled a one-timer past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to put the Capitals up, 2-0.

Nearly seven minutes through the second, the Capitals scored its second power-play goal off an Eller rebound, taking a 4-0 lead. But the chance was created by Ovechkin, who shot a one-timer that deflected over to T.J. Oshie and then to Eller.

So, how did Ovechkin get so open on both attempts? Teams vary in their approach to the Russian. Last series, the Penguins stuck a man on Ovechkin and let the others try to do damage, making it 4-on-3.

On Ovechkin’s goal, center Alex Killorn said they knew the play, but failed to execute their attempt to stop it. Killorn was supposed to block the shot.

“It just happened so quickly that it’s tough to get body position especially when Eller is trying to set a pick there,” Killorn said. “It’s just one of those things where I probably have to jump out quicker on him.”

Washington has talent on its power play, outside of Ovechkin. Oshie has four power play goals this postseason, while Carlson has three. Eller has even filled well on the top unit in place of Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury.

The Capitals finished 2-of-4 on the power play against the Lightning.

The Capitals are making sure they take advantage of their opportunities, too. This season, they’ve preferred shot quality over quantity. But that changes on the power play, Carlson said.

“Whoever is open is shooting the puck,” Carlson said.


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