Third-Period Penalty Kills Help Capitals Beat Lightning

WASHINGTON — Dmitry Orlov scored the go-ahead goal with 6:03 left, Braden Holtby made 26 saves and the Washington Capitals killed off several late power plays to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 on Saturday night.

Washington outshot Tampa Bay 35-27 and handed the Lightning their third loss in four games. Holtby didn’t get tested much in the first two periods but was at his best on a late 5-on-3 penalty kill when he made big stops on Tyler Johnson and Victor Hedman.

The NHL-leading Capitals improved to 5-0-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this season. They were the better team for a large portion of the game against a rested opponent even after playing at New Jersey on Friday.

Defenceman Radko Gudas scored his first goal with the Capitals when he gave them the lead in the second period. Washington acquired Gudas for his physicality, not his offence, but it’ll take some offence when he can provide it.

Radko Gudas Washington Capitals
Radko Gudas, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reigning MVP Nikita Kucherov scored his 12th of the season for the Lightning, wiring a shot high glove side on Holtby in the third. The Lightning had a major opportunity to take the lead with a two-man advantage for 1:26 but couldn’t crack Holtby.

Tampa Bay’s league-best power play got seven chances but came up empty on each one. With goaltender Curtis McIlhenny pulled for an extra attacker, Nic Dowd scored an empty-net goal with 2:23 left to put it away.

McIlhenney got a surprise nod over regular Lightning starter Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was not on the bench for the entire game. He made 32 saves, but the Lightning lost their second in a row.

Curtis McElhinney Tampa Bay Lightning
Curtis McElhinney, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Capitals got a scare in the second when winger T.J. Oshie crashed head-first into Lightning defenceman Mikhail Sergachev and looked to be in distress lying on the ice. Oshie, who has had five documented concussions in 12 NHL seasons, skated off and went straight down the tunnel but returned later in the period.


Orlov has five points in his past seven games. … The Lightning dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen. D-man Luke Schenn returned from a five-game absence, replacing forward Carter Verhaeghe. … McElhinney was making just his ninth start of the season in Tampa Bay’s 34th game. … Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was voted an All-Star captain for the third consecutive season.


Lightning: Host the Sunshine State rival Florida Panthers on Monday in their final game before the Christmas break.

Capitals: Visit the Boston Bruins on Monday in their final game before three days away.


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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press