2018-05-14 / Sports

Capitals up 2-0

BY FRED GOODALL
The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla.

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals overcame a major hurdle by reaching the Eastern Conference final.

Just like that, they’re in a full-on sprint toward the finish.

The Capitals scored in the opening minute of the game and twice in the last 1:02 of the second period Sunday night to pull away to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning and a 2-0 lead in the East final.

“It’s huge but it’s not over yet,” Ovechkin said. “We played hard and played smart. You can see all four lines doing their job.”

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

“We didn’t panic. Just stayed to the system and played the right way,” Ovechkin said. “We stayed calm and waited for our opportunities.”

Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly also scored, helping Washington improve to 7-1 on the road this postseason. It’s their first visit to the conference final during Ovechkin’s 13- season career.

“You’re on the road and it’s us against them, and this group has really bonded,” coach Barry Trotz said. “They’ve got a lot of resiliency, and they’re having fun.”

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Washington.

The Lightning had the best record in the Eastern Conference this season and breezed through the first rounds of the playoffs against New Jersey and Boston.

Brayden 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 finished an odd-man rush and 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.

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