Alex Killorn scored the tiebreaking goal at 11:57 of the third period in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 win at Capital One Arena on Thursday.
The Lightning tied the best-of-7 series 2-2 after losing the first two games at home. Game 5 is at Tampa Bay on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).
“We did a good job killing it off,” Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. “We just needed to hold on for a few more seconds.”
Steven Stamkos scored on the power play at 8:32 of the first period to make it nine games in a row the Lightning have scored with the man-advantage. They are 6-for-14 (42.9 percent) against the Capitals, who didn’t score on any of their seven power plays in Games 3 and 4.
But it was a failed Tampa Bay power play that decided the game. Washington killed Lars Eller‘s penalty for hooking at 9:51 of the third. The Lightning kept the pressure on as the man-advantage ticked away. They entered the Capitals zone with 13 seconds left on Eller’s penalty, and two strong plays by rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev kept the puck there.
Sergachev took a hit from Capitals forward T.J. Oshie at the blue line and dropped to his knees, but he kept the play alive with a pass to teammate Yanni Gourde. Just as the power play expired, but before Washington could breathe a sigh of relief, Sergachev skated toward a carom off the boards just inside the blue line and quickly rimmed it back toward the Capitals net. Ondrej Palat was waiting.
“That was a great play by [Sergachev],” Palat said.
Everyone on the ice expected Palat to continue the puck along the boards. Eller was skating hard to get into the play after exiting the penalty box. But Palat, with his back to the net, turned his head and saw a pocket of space in front. Not even Killorn was ready.
“We kind of still had that power play set up, and Sergachev throws it down the wall, and when Palat gets it, even myself included, thought he was going to rim it up to the other side,” Killorn said. “He makes a great play on his backhand to put it to me in front of the net.”
Killorn was surprised, but he was readier than the Capitals.
Eller was not yet in a position to backcheck. Defenseman John Carlson was concerned with Palat, and Killorn snuck in behind him. T.J. Oshie was also anticipating a play around the net and leaned away from Killorn for just a beat.
That was all it took for Killorn to receive the pass from Palat alone in front and slide the puck between goalie Braden Holtby‘s pads.
“As a goalie, you don’t even really know if the power play is killed off or not,” Holtby said. “You’re just trying to do your job, and I think it’s a play that, once I watch, I’ll realize that I could do a better job on. Not the time of the game that I want to give up a goal.”
It was a crushing blow after the Capitals dominated possession much of the game. They outshot the Lightning 29-13 in the first and second periods, but their power play couldn’t convert and they missed too many other chances.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (36 saves) kept the Lightning in it until Killorn could score the go-ahead goal.
“I’m just trying to surprise [Holtby] a little bit, and he made a nice move and scored,” Palat said. “[Killorn] looked a little surprised, but he handled it well. He scored a nice goal.”
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