There was no letdown for the Washington Capitals. Just more winning hockey.
Putting an emotional second-round victory over playoff nemesis and two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh behind them [url=http://www.coltscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-malik-hooker-jersey]Malik Hooker Jersey[/url] , the Caps got a power-play goal and assist from Alex Ovechkin in his Eastern Conference finals debut and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Friday night.
Braden Holtby stopped 19 shots and Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle and Lars Eller also scored for the Caps, who are alive beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time in Ovechkin’s brilliant 13-year career.
”We had a really good start. We didn’t give them much,” Ovechkin said.
”I think it’s we realized we just have to play our way,” the Washington captain added. ”It doesn’t matter which position we are, which round it is. Everybody was paying the price.”
Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat scored for Tampa Bay, which trailed 4-0 heading into the third period.
Game 2 is Sunday night at Amalie Arena, where Tampa Bay also lost Game 1 in the second round against Boston.
”It’s just one game. That’s the way we have to look at it,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ”We’ve got to get back to what got us to the conference final.”
The Capitals dominated in improving to 6-1 on the road this postseason, with Kempny giving them an early 1-0 lead.
Ovechkin made it 2-0 a mere 5 seconds after the Lightning thought they had tied it in the closing seconds of the opening period. But Nikita Kucherov’s would-be breakaway goal was waved off because Tampa Bay had too many men on the ice.
T.J. Oshie won the ensuing faceoff in the Lightning zone, getting the puck to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who fed Ovechkin for the Washington superstar’s ninth goal this postseason – 55th overall in 110 career playoff games – at 19:54 of the first.
”That gave us a real boost … gave us some breathing room [url=http://www.billscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-josh-allen-jersey]Josh Allen Jersey[/url] ,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
Beagle and Eller scored in the first seven minutes of the second period for a 4-0 lead. Up to that point, the Lightning – the NHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season – had allowed as many goals as they had shots.
Tampa Bay replaced goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy with Louis Domingue after the starter allowed four goals on 25 shots through two periods.
Holtby lost his shutout when Stamkos, assisted by Kucherov and Victor Hedman, scored at 3:45 of the third. Palat added his goal at 13:03, trimming Washington’s lead to 4-2.
Stamkos and Kucherov had one shot between them in the first two periods.
The Lightning dropped the opener of a series for the second straight round. They rebounded from a lopsided Game 1 loss at home to Boston by winning four straight to advance to the conference finals for the third time in four years.
The Capitals defeated Columbus and Pittsburgh in six games to reach the conference finals for the first time since 1998, when they beat the Buffalo Sabres.
”That’s a good hockey team over there, and they outplayed us tonight,” Stamkos said. ”In hindsight, we were in this same position in the last round and found a way to respond.”
Added Lightning winger Ryan Callahan: ”We’ve just got to put it behind us. We’ve been in this situation before, unfortunately. You don’t want to be, but you don’t have to look too far to draw back on the way we responded against Boston. We have to do the same here.”
NOTES: Ovechkin has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 13 playoff games. Kuznetsov had two assists [url=http://www.bengalscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-darqueze-dennard-jersey]Darqueze Dennard Jersey[/url] , giving him nine this postseason. … The teams are meeting in the playoffs for just the third time, first since 2011. Tampa Bay won both previous meetings, including a sweep in the Eastern Conference semifinals seven years ago. Stamkos and Hedman are the only players remaining on the Lightning roster from that series. … The Capitals played without top center Nicklas Backstrom (hand), who’s considered day-to-day. Winger Tom Wilson, meanwhile, returned from a three-game suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese during in the second round. … The Caps have outscored opponents 14-3 in the opening period this postseason. They’ve won seven of 10 games in which they’ve scored first.
Bartolo Colon goes for a spot in the history books Sunday afternoon when he takes the mound at Target Field where the Texas Rangers will face the Minnesota Twins.
Colon (4-4, 4.91) snapped a tie with Hall of Famer Juan Marichal and became the winningest pitcher from the Dominican Republic earlier this week and should he earn a win Sunday, he would tie Nicaragua native Dennis Martinez for the most by a pitcher from any Latin American country.
“Now that I’ve won the 244, I see that it’s close to Dennis Martinez, but with health and enough time, I’m ready to be able to pass him and be the first Latin with more wins,” Colon said through a translator after snapping out of a five-game funk against the Kansas Royals on Monday “I feel happy [url=http://www.cowboyscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-michael-gallup-jersey]Michael Gallup Jersey[/url] , of course, to pass a Hall of Famer, the first Dominican in the Hall of Fame.”
Colon is 11-8 with a 3.78 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) against the Twins. Last season he was 5-6 with a 5.18 ERA in 15 starts for the Twins.
Colon is pitching in Minnesota as a visitor for the first time since July 16, 2005 at the Metrodome when he pitched the Los Angeles Angels.
The Latin American record is a big deal for not just the 45-year-old Colon but also for his teammates.
“They’ve wanted to get this win for him for some time now,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s just incredible to watch. He’s such a humble guy. No real fanfare whatsoever. Kind of just a great humility.”
The Rangers have been one of baseball’s hottest teams of late.
They stretched their season-best winning streak to seven games Saturday as Adrian Beltre and Robinson Chirinos homered in 9-6 victory. With a win Sunday, the Rangers would clinch their second consecutive series sweep — and their second of the season, overall.
They may need to do it without first baseman Joey Gallo, who left the game in the third inning after stretching a double. Banister said Gallo had been “battling some soreness” the last few days.
“We played him at first base to try to alleviate some of that today, but it seemed to come back and get him a little bit,” Bannister said. “We’ll reassess him and see where he is tomorrow.”
The Twins have dropped three straight games after Eddie Rosario homered and drove in four runs Saturday.
Right-hander Jose Berrios (7-5, 3.38) will try to keep Texas’ brooms at bay.
Berrios earned a no-decision but was magnificent in his last outing, holding the Red Sox to a run on five hits while striking out six over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday.
He’s only allowed one run in each of his last two outings and gave up two in the start before that. Over his last seven outings [url=http://www.billscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jeremy-kerley-jersey]Jeremy Kerley Jersey[/url] , Berrios is 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA.
Berrios won his only start against Texas, allowing five runs and five innings in a 6-5 victory Aug. 6. He also is 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in four starts against teams from the AL West.
Should Berrios struggle Sunday, the Twins will have a fresh arm in the bullpen. Minnesota’s bullpen covered 7 1/3 innings Saturday after Jake Odorizzi recorded just five outs.
The team plans to summon right-hander Alan Busenitz from Triple-A Rochester, where he has a 1.27 ERA in 17 outings this season.
To make room for Busenitz on the roster, Minnesota optioned 23-year-old starter Fernando Romero to Triple-A. The right-hander is 3-3 with a 4.38 ERA and has a 7.54 ERA over his last five starts.
“His starts, while they haven’t been horrific or horrendous or any of those type of things, it just looks like it’s been a little more laborious for him,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Some of the things that a young pitcher goes through, I think it’s time to reset him. There’s obviously some things maybe that I don’t want to be too transparent about that I think he needs to work on. I’m sure he’ll get back to work.”
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