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NHL playoffs 2018: Capitals claim Game 1 from slow-starting Lightning

It took the Capitals 25 years to return to the Eastern Conference finals. On Friday, they made up for lost time.

Alex Ovechkin, a Stanley Cup semifinalist for the first time in his career, scored and added an assist as the Capitals opened a 4-0 lead over the favored Lightning and went on to claim a 4-2 win in Game 1 in the best-of-seven series.

Tampa is in the conference finals for a third time in four seasons and the fourth time since 2011, but it was Washington which played like it’s been here before. Michal Kempny opened the game’s scoring 7:28 into the first period. As the Lightning trailed by a goal in the final seconds before intermission, none other than Nikita Kucherov appeared to tie the game on an incredible individual effort, flipping the puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby while falling to the ice on a partial breakaway.

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Except, the Lightning had been called for too many men on the ice mere moments before. The goal was waved off, Washington went on the power play and cashed in two seconds later. Off the ensuing faceoff, Ovechkin wound up and released a rocket one-timer that found its way through a screen. Instead of 1-1, the Capitals took a 2-0 lead into intermission and added two quick goals early in the second period.

Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat scored third-period goals to make things interesting, but it was too little, too late, and only made the game seem closer than it was.

The blowout had shades of the Lightning’s 6-2 loss to the Bruins to open the second round. Tampa closed out that series in convincing fashion, winning four consecutive games. That’ll be their rallying cry for Game 2 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, Sportsnet, CBC).

Sporting News kept tabs on live updates and highlights throughout the game. See below to find out how it unfolded. (All times Eastern.)

MORE: Lightning vs. Capitals odds, predictions
Game 1 result: Capitals 4, Lightning 2

Shots on goal: Capitals 28, Lightning 18

10:46 p.m. — Too little, too late for the Lightning. The Capitals claim Game 1 on the strength of a dominant first period. No one said things would be easy for the No. 1 seed.

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