The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning meet each other on three occasions this season, but the two Eastern Conference powers managed to create quite a bit of tension in the first matchup.
The Lightning and Capitals will square off against each other Sunday in Tampa to complete a home-and-home series.
There was plenty of chippy play during the Capitals’ 5-1 victory over the Lightning.
The main event occurred early in the second period when Washington’s Nicolas Aube-Kubel rocked Cal Foote with a shot to the head, bloodying the defenseman and putting him out of the game.
Then the officials assessed the play, meted out a five-minute major to Aube-Kubel and put him out of the game, too, with a match penalty.
That triggered incidents the rest of the way. Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon and Washington’s Garnet Hathaway immediately fought at center ice, with the two physical players chirping each other from the penalty box.
The Lightning don’t expect Foote to return any time soon.
“(Foote’s) not great, he obviously couldn’t come back,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s a tough hit. That defines the word ‘blind side.’ That’s too bad we’re playing them again (Sunday). He probably won’t be around to see the game.”
Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry and Vladislav Namestnikov engaged in brawls with the Capitals’ Anthony Mantha and Erik Gustafsson late in the game. Other skirmishes dotted the ice as well.
The Lightning led the way in penalty minutes 41-38 in the testy battle, but Cooper said he wasn’t concerned much about his club retaliating Sunday on home ice.
“Teams are trying to win hockey games,” Cooper said. ‘When the puck drops, everybody’s into it. We’ll see who’s in the lineup for each team. That may have something to do with it. … Sometimes (the chippy play) happens when you’re playing a team two times in a row.”
Washington assistant coach Kevin McCarthy, who is subbing for head coach Peter Laviolette (COVID protocol), expects more physical play.
“I think it’s going to be the same. You play a team back-to-back, there’s always something that carries over,” McCarthy added.
In addition to losing Foote, the Lightning’s blue-liners took another hit when Mikhail Sergachev blocked Alex Ovechkin’s slap shot late in the game. Sergachev hobbled and holding his arm as headed to the bench. Fellow defender Erik Cernak left the game after taking Ovechkin’s shot off his skate.
Conversely, Washington received a huge defensive boost Friday when standout John Carlson returned to the lineup following a six-game absence for a lower-body injury.
Carlson sprung Sonny Milano, fresh out of the penalty box, for a breakaway tally that served as the game-winning goal.
“You can’t underestimate a guy like (Carlson) coming back into our lineup,” McCarthy said. “Here’s a guy who played 26 minutes tonight, and we were trying to manage his minutes. Guys like that produce offense.”
Carlson became the first defenseman to reach the 600-point plateau with the only assist on Milano’s first of two goals. That put him fifth in franchise history, trailing Ovechkin (1,424 points), Nicklas Backstrom (1,011), Peter Bondra (825) and Mike Gartner (789).
–Field Level Media