Facing elimination at home, the Washington Capitals looked determined to hit everything that moved in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final.
The goal was to finish checks on Tampa Bay Lightning players as much as possible, though at one point Devante Smith-Pelly decked Dan Girardi and took teammate Jay Beagle down with him.
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I apologized to him, Smith-Pelly said. I said sorry. He didn’t seem to care.
Sorry, not sorry.
It’s desperation, really, Orpik said. You try to empty the tank as much as you can. That’s probably one area where we have an edge is the size and physical play.
That edge was noticeable in Game 6 when Washington fired up an already-raucous crowd well before Oshie’s power-play goal 15:12 into the second period. While Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was again on top of his game in stopping 31 of 33 shots, Orpik said the Capitals wanted to give back to fans for their energy and did so by laying out Lightning players.
From Wilson’s big hit on Paquette on his first shift through the time Smith-Pelly scored with 9:58 left, the physical play took a toll on the Lightning, who didn’t have the energy left to muster a late comeback. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said simply the Capitals executed their game plan and the Lightning didn’t respond.
That said, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m going to go back to something Lightning coach Jon Cooper said about home-ice advantage in the playoffs: It really doesn’t become a factor until Game 7. I think the Lightning find their level and eek out a win in Game 7 to advance to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.
Youth Cameron Heyward Jersey Emily Kaplan, international NHL reporter: The Lightning’s top line is the X factor for me, specifically Nikita Kucherov. It feels like there’s something off with the 100-point scorer lately — Jon Cooper even moved his stud winger off the first line for some of Game 6. Kucherov and Steven Stamkos recorded only one shot each in Game 6; neither looked on. (I will note, Kucherov did ring one off the post at the end of the second period.) After blazing Clayton Kershaw Authentic Jersey through the start of the playoffs with five goals in his first five games, Kucherov has scored just once in the Lightning’s last seven. And a player known for his physicality hasn’t recorded a hit in five straight contests.