If I'm Nikita Kucherov I'm more than just a little bit angry about this one.
On Friday night the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals kicked off the Eastern Conference Final with the first game of their series in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It looked initially like we would have a very competitive game early but a horrible mistake from the Tampa bay Lightning led them into a massive hole early, one that you have to wonder if they will be able to claw their way out of.
The Washington Capitals were the first to get on the board with the first goal of the series, it wasn't a particularly fancy goal but came as the result of some good screens in front of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Unfortunately for the Lightning those screens were in large part created by the Lightning's two defensemen doing their best to keep Capitals star Alex Ovechkin under double coverage, but this time their efforts had the opposite effect that they were working for. For Ovechkin it was his way of having a big contribution on the goal without ever actually touching the puck on the play.
The Lightning however had an answer of their own and it came courtesy of superstar forward Nikita Kucherov, who thanks to a heroic individual effort managed to erase the Capitals lead and tie things up before the end of the first period. That is he managed to do so until his goal was called back as a result of a horrible mistake from the Tampa Bay Lightning bench, and the Lightning players.
As Kucherov raced down the ice one of the National Hockey League officials on the ice astutely noted that there were not 5 but 6 Lightning players on the ice at the time. As a result the gutsy effort Kucherov showed to not only earn a break away but also to put an incredible move on Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby in an incredibly narrow window was all for naught. Unfortunately for the Lightning that was only the beginning of their problems.
As you can imagine having a goal like that called back on you, especially in a high pressure situation like the Eastern Conference Final, can be incredibly deflating, but it wasn't just that the goal was called back. The Capitals were also awarded a power play as a result of the officials calling a penalty on the Lightning for too many men on the ice, a situation that turned a tie for the Lightning into a 1 - 0 deficit and a penalty kill.
The Capitals wasted no time driving the metaphorical dagger into the heart of the Tampa Bay Lightning either, just 3 seconds into their power play for too many men on the ice captain Alex Ovechkin fired home a rocket from the point, a rocket that once again beat Vasilevskiy. The game went from a 1 - 1 tie to a 2 - 0 lead for the Capitals in a matter of just a few short seconds and it seemed to suck the life out of the Lightning.
Photo Credit: Keystone Press