Capitals beat the Lightning 4-2 to keep their playoff hopes alive


WASHINGTON — With the score tied and their season hanging in the balance, Charlie Lindgren made one big save after another to keep the Washington Capitals in a crucial game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With the score still tied and the season still hanging in the balance, John Carlson blasted a shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Capitals the go-ahead goal they needed in a 4-2 victory Saturday that kept their playoff hopes alive.

“Everything matters right now, every single moment,” said Lindgren, who made 32 saves in another strong performance when his team needed it. “We’ve got two games here left and obviously just lay it all out there.”

Sonny Milano scored twice and Nic Dowd provided an insurance goal with 3:14 remaining as the Capitals won for just the second time in nine games to at least temporarily move into the Eastern Conference’s second and final wild-card spot. They may need to win their final two games of the season to return to the postseason after missing last year.

“Everything falls on us now,” Dowd said. “These next two games, this entire season comes down to our group being able to get to where we need to be and do it together.”

Beating Tampa Bay was essential to just make that possible. A 5-on-3 power play in the third period gave Washington its best chance to crack 2019 Vezina Trophy-winning and 2021 playoff MVP Vasilevskiy, and Carlson did just that with his 150th career goal, earning the franchise record among defensemen.

Milano’s goals helped the Caps keep pace earlier, while Anthony Duclair scored on a double deflection and Brandon Hagel got his 25th of the season for Tampa Bay. Lindgren did the rest, robbing Steven Stamkos of his 40th among a handful of quality saves throughout.

“He’s just a gamer,” Carlson said. “When the stakes are high, when the chips are on the table, he seems to come up big all the time and we wouldn’t even be close to where we are right now vying for a playoff spot without him.”

Vasilevskiy at the other end was on his game as well, looking unbeatable for long stretches of the game and finishing with 30 saves. The Lightning are locked into the East’s first wild-card spot and have only individual achievements like Nikita Kucherov reaching 100 assists this season or him winning the NHL scoring race.

“They’re on a different emotional level than we are, but in the end, there was 20 minutes to play, and the game was tied, so dig in here for a bit,” coach Jon Cooper said. “And we just made some mental errors.”

The scariest moment of the game came late in the first period, when Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen’s head hit the boards after a shove from Tampa Bay’s Michael Eyssimont. Jensen lay motionless on the ice for several minutes while being attended to by medical personnel and was stretchered off the ice.

Jensen was alert, conscious and using his extremities, the team said, and coach Spencer Carbery said Jensen walked out with his family and did not go to the hospital. Dowd, a college teammate and longtime friend of Jensen’s, dropped the gloves in the second to fight Eyssmiont, who was not penalized for the collision.

“Any of our teammates would’ve stepped up and done that,” Dowd said. “I just saw an opportunity. I think there’s obviously a bit of a code, and we were able to handle it and move on.”

UP NEXT

Lightning: Host the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Capitals: Host the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl



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