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The National Hockey League is officially back with a lot of expectations for the qualifying teams who made it to the bubble.
The Washington Capitals returned to play on Monday in the Cup Qualifiers round-robin game where they faced off with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The game ended in a shootout where the Lightning escaped with a win 3-2 over the Capitals in Toronto.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, goaltender for the Lightning, was great in the net, stopping 31 shots and notching a .939 save percentage. He was the first star of the game and the second star goes to Nikita Kucherov, who added a goal and the game-winning shootout goal on Braden Holtby.
Tampa Bay looks to increase their momentum heading into their coming round-robin games against the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Evgeny Kuznetsov netted a powerplay goal and tied the game up in the second period. But the team couldn’t keep up the momentum as they didn’t light the lamp until T.J. Oshie scored in the shooutout.
The Capitals surely didn’t look on the same page heading into the first intermission of the game. The Caps came out looking sluggish and slow, as their passes weren’t tape-to-tape.
The Capitals play very well when the stars are shining but like when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018, the third and fourth line depth will be the most important thing.
Think about any Stanley Cup winning team through history: The teams that have role players who show out and prove themselves to step up in clutch moments will win the Cup almost every time. Lars Eller, Ilya Kovalchuk, Richard Panik, Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd must stay consistent and ready for the Capitals to withstand this strange season and year.
“That’s a recent Stanley Cup champion,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after the game. “I’m shocked that people aren’t talking about that team more, because they’re outstanding. They’ve got everything: size, strength, speed, skill.”
Monday’s game against Tampa Bay was the first of the team’s three round-robin games in the Eastern Conference. The results of which will determine seeding in the next round, which is set to begin on August 11th.
Washington will play the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday in its second round-robin game, then they will face the Boston Bruins on Sunday. The Capitals look to bounce back from this shootout loss.