It might seem a bit tedious to go through all the goals in the Lightning’s 4-2 Game 4 win over the Capitals on Thursday night, which evened the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece. But bear with me—in the tensest game of the series so far, every scoring play (minus the empty netter with two seconds to go) was a thing of beauty worth your full attention.
The first, less than five minutes into the game, arrived as an adrenaline shot to kick this game off with a bang. Partly, the shock came from the fact that it was Dmitry Orlov doing the sniping—only his second goal of the playoffs—but also, you’re not supposed to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy from an angle that tight!
But Tampa responded quickly and exited the first period with a 2-1 lead. Brayden Point got the first goal for the Bolts while the PA announcer was still celebrating the Orlov score. Off a bad Caps turnover, and on the end of that precise passing the Lightning seem to do better than anyone, Point earned himself a simple tap-in.
Then that impossible-to-defend Lightning chemistry appeared once again, with Steven Stamkos the beneficiary of several criss-crossing passes on the powerplay.
Despite screwing up their own first-period powerplay opportunities so badly that some in the crowd were booing them, the Capitals found an equalizer about five minutes into the second period. This one was credited to Evgeny Kuznetsov, but it was all Alexander Ovechkin, who fired a backhand cross-ice saucer pass from center to the blue line, setting up his teammate by showing off the less-noticed, selfless aspect of his offensive game.
The game-winner, however, came from Alex Killorn with eight minutes to go in the third. It’s a bit more of a scrapper from first glance, as the Lightning forward scores from point-blank range. But check out the quick thinking by Killorn to switch to his backhand in almost no time as Holtby slides to attempt the save. It’s the kind of top-level instinct that can tie a series.
This is way easier to say as a neutral—and not, say, a Capitals fan rueing all her team’s missed chances—but this is the kind of game I’d want to show somebody in one of my desperate attempts to get them to appreciate hockey. None of these goals came from flukey deflections or puck luck; they were simply the products of talented offensive players making the correct plays. It definitely still sucks for the Caps right now, because losing doesn’t feel any better when you get slightly outplayed rather than slightly unlucky. But for the rest of us: Both teams gave us exactly what we wanted to see.