Capitals pull away, beat Lightning 6-2 for 2-0 series lead

TAMPA, Fla. — The Washington Capitals scored in the opening minute of the game and twice in the last 1:02 of the second period to pull away to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference final.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller each had a goal and two assists. Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson had a goal and an assist apiece.

Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly also scored for the Caps, who took the first two games of the best-of-seven matchup on the road. Since 1974-75, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the conference final or semifinal have a series record of 39-2 (95.1 per cent).

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Washington.

Braden Point and Steven Stamkos had early power-play goals for Tampa Bay, which rebounded after falling behind on Wilson’s goal 28 seconds into the game.

Smith-Pelly’s one-timer finishing an odd-man rush made it 2-2 at 2:30 of the second period. The Caps took control when Eller scored with 1:02 remaining and Kuznetsov — with assists from Ovechkin and Eller — delivered on a power play less than a minute later.

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was called for tripping Washington’s Andre Burakovsky with 10 seconds left in the period. Kuznetsov scored seven seconds later to make it 4-2, the second time in the series the Caps stunned the Lightning with a power-play goal in the closing seconds of a period.

Ovechkin and Connolly finished the rout with third-period goals. Braden Holtby stopped 33 of 35 shots to improve to 10-3 this post-season.

Ovechkin, playing in the conference final for the first time, also had a goal and an assist in Washington’s 4-2 victory in Game 1.

Vasilevskiy was pulled from the opener after facing 25 shots in two periods, but the Lightning didn’t pin the loss on him. Instead, they vowed to player harder in front of the young goaltender, who finished with 31 saves in Game 2.

Tampa Bay benefited early from a couple of questionable penalties — Wilson for goaltender interference and T.J. Oshie for high-sticking Victor Hedman, when the Tampa Bay defenceman actually was struck by the puck — to score twice in just over three minutes on the power-play for a 2-1 lead.

Stamkos and Hedman assisted on Point’s goal at 7:08 of the first. Stamkos’ fourth goal in five games gave Tampa Bay its first lead of the series.

NOTES: Before Sunday night, the Lightning had won Game 2 of a series five consecutive times after losing Game 1. They’re 4-2 in six previous series in which they lost Game 1, with those series losses coming in the first round in 2014 against Montreal and the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against Chicago. … Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom, who took a shot from Justin Schultz off his right hand in Game 5 of Washington’s second-round series against the Penguins, missed his third straight game. He took part in the morning skate on a limited basis and remains day-to-day. … Hedman has a franchise-record, seven-game point streak (eight assists). Martin St. Louis had a six-game streak in 2004.

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