Capitals crush Lightning to seize command of series


Los Angeles (AFP)

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored off a lucky bounce late in the second period as the Washington Capitals seized command of their Eastern Conference final with a lopsided 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy misplayed a Kuznetsov centring pass that deflected into the net at the end of the second period to make it 4-2, helping the Capitals take a two games to none playoff series lead.

The series now shifts to Washington where the Capitals will try to take a 3-0 stranglehold on Tuesday night.

Kuznetsov also had two assists, Lars Eller finished with a goal and two assists and Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who are in the semi-finals for the first time in two decades.

They are playing for a spot in the Stanley Cup finals against either the Las Vegas Golden Knights or Winnipeg.

The Jets have a 1-0 series lead.

The Capitals are also winning without their top two-way player Nicklas Backstrom who is out with a hand injury. His place in the lineup has been taken by Eller who has stepped out of the shadows to give the Capitals the extra punch they needed.

Eller was instrumental on both plays when the turning point came in the final minute of the second period.

He scored the eventual winner with 62 seconds left in the period and then assisted on Kuznetsov's powerplay goal.

The Capitals were given a powerplay after netminder Vasilevskiy tripped up Washington's Andre Burakovsky, sending the Swedish forward hard into the end boards.

Vasilevskiy then attempted to intercept Kuznetsov's centring pass to Eller but the puck hit his blocker and went in at the buzzer to give the Capitals a two-goal lead.

Tampa tried to battle back but the Capitals did a good job of slowing them down and not allowing them to utilize their speed and skill around the net.

Holtby also made clutch saves when he had to. He had back-to-back stops from in close on Tampa forward Brayden Point twice on the powerplay with the score 5-2.

Just five minutes later Washington forward Brett Connolly took a pass on his blade and then, like a lacrosse player, whipped the puck into the upper half of the net to round out the scoring.

Alex Ovechkin, with his team-leading 10th goal of the postseason, Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly also scored for the Capitals.

Point and Steven Stamkos scored goals for Tampa, who may have dug a hole too deep to climb out of by losing the first two games at home.

Vasilevskiy finished with 31 saves.