Capitals dominate Lightning to play for Stanley Cup

The Capitals beat the Lightning in Game 7 to move on to their first Stanley Cup Final in two decades

Capitals dominate Lightning to play for Stanley Cup
Ovechkin celebrates his first period goal as the curse is finally broken (Kim Klement, USA Today Sports)
Tampa Bay Lightning
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Washington Capitals

157 minutes and 13 seconds or two hours, 37 minutes, and 13 seconds. That amount of time is how long ​Washington Capitals’ goaltender ​Braden Holtby ​shut out the number-one seeded ​Tampa Bay Lightning. ​In back-to-back games, Holtby put up shut outs, stopping 60 combined shots, and joins the likes of ​Dominik Hasek ​and Henrik Lundqvist ​as the only goalies to post consecutive shutouts in Game 6 and 7.

In Game 7 though, Holtby was a stone wall. He stopped all 29 Lightning shots he faced and his play allowed Washington to win this game. 

Washington starts out hot

The Capitals team that we saw in Game 6 definitely came to play in Game 7. Just 1:02 into the first period, ​Alex Ovechkin ​grabbed  the early 1-0 lead for Washington.

This was all set-up by Thomas Wilson who knocked ​Chris Kunitz over to steal the puck and bring it into the Tampa zone. Wilson then passed the puck backwards to Evgeny Kuznetsov ​who found Ovechkin waiting for the puck at the blue line. Ovechkin then slapped it home over the shoulder of Andrei Vasilevskiy ​to give the Caps the 1-0 lead. 

Washington got the first power play of the game with 18:01 left on the clock, but they couldn't do anything with it as the score remained 1-0. Alex Ovechkin played all but 17 seconds on that man advantage. 

Devante Smith-Pelly ​showed what the possibility of playing for a championship means as he really put his body on the line to block a Ryan McDonagh ​slap shot. The puck hit Smith-Pelly in the back of his neck and he was immediately taken off to the dressing room with 13:11 still showing on the clock. 

Smith-Pelly ended up returning in the first after a brief stint in the locker room, but after he took a hit trying to clear the puck in the second, his night was done. 

Things started to get chippy as Ovechkin had a glorious chance to make it 2-0, but it ended up being turned away by Vasilevskiy. Kuznetsov lost his jersey in the scrum after it was ripped off by ​Brayden Coburn​ and Wilson went right after Coburn which resulted in the two of them getting offsetting minor penalties to bring about some 4-on-4 hockey. 

The second Wilson and Coburn stepped out of the box, they fought. Wilson completely pummeled Coburn as Coburn took shot after shot to his head and saw his helmet come flying off after a pretty nasty punch by Wilson. After Wilson took Coburn to the ground, you could see that there was blood on Wilson's knuckles. Both went to the locker room as their time in the first period was over. 

After strong play by Holtby, both teams headed to the locker room with the score 1-0 in favor of the Washington Capitals in this pivotal Game 7. 

It's Andre Burakovsky's world and we just live in it

Braden Holtby has been an absolute monster all playoffs and a big reason why the Capitals are now playing for the Stanley Cup, and that continued in the second period. 

After Holtby turned away great chances by the Lightning, the Capitals cashed in on bad mistakes. 

What would be the first of two goals for ​Andre Burakovsky​ came after he stole the puck from ​Dan Giradi​ and he put it just past Andrei Vasilevskiy under the blocker side. That would be the first Burakovsky goal these playoffs. 

The second goal for Andre Burakovsky also came off a Tampa Bay Lightning mistake as they took an extremely long time to change allowing John Carlson ​to find Burakovsky slipping behind the defense. Carlson bounced the puck off the boards, found Burakovsky streaking who then proceeded to put the puck five-hole on Vasilevskiy to give the Capitals a 3-0 lead with 3:30 left on the clock. 

To throw another "stat of the night" at you, this is the first time in 11 Game 7’s during the Ovechkin era that Washington has scored three goals and just the second time in 16 overall in franchise history. 

After another extremely strong period by Holtby, and Burakovsky finally finding his stroke, the Capitals found themselves holding a 3-0 lead with one period separating them from the chance at immortality. 

After two decades, they're in

The Lightning tried and tried but no matter what they did, they couldn't get past Holtby. After taking a pretty nasty cheap hit from Cedric Paquette in the second period, Brooks Orpik ​returned for the third. 

Holtby stood strong the entire period and really kept Washington in the game at points. He played aggressively but not so much so that it would cost them goals. 

With 4:11 left, Tampa did pull their goaltender but it did not work at all as Backstrom put in the empty net goal just 28 seconds later to put their lead up to 4-0. 

Washington played keep away for most of the period as they were just biding time until they could celebrate. The pure emotion and joy that swept over the bench was fun to watch as they were all celebrating, and especially Alex Ovechkin who had waited almost his entire career to play for a Stanley Cup and could barely contain himself on the bench. 

As the time hit all zeros, the Washington Capitals became the first D.C. team among the four major sports to reach a championship final in two decades. And finally, Ovechkin now has the chance to play for the trophy that has eluded him his entire career. 

This Game 7 was truly one of the best hockey games I have seen in awhile, and the series was truly spectacular. It just seemed like Tampa ran out of ideas and all of the magic was on Washington's side. 

Washington now gets to move on to play the ​Vegas Golden Knights ​starting Monday, May 28th at 8 P.M. E.T. 

​What was you favorite moment from the series? Who is your pick to win the Stanley Cup? Tell me in the comments below!