Vincent Lecavalier, Alex Ovechkin

Capitals grind out tough shootout win against Lightning, improve Southeast Division lead

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Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau talked tough going into tonight’s clash for the Southeast Division crown, providing the Tampa Bay Lightning with even more motivation to take back the top spot. While it’s almost natural to assume that the two teams would ride their marquee names and finesse, both teams instead provided a blue collar effort, as the Caps cranked out a black-and-blue shootout win.

Washington 2, Tampa Bay 1 (SO)

The Capitals might leave the game a little banged up, as it’s possible that Michal Neuvirth and Nicklas Backstrom will join Mike Green and Semyon Varlamov among Washington’s walking wounded. Neuvirth gave way to Braden Holtby after one period because he took a shot to the mask while Backstrom might have re-aggravated a fractured thumb injury, as Holtby said that he left the game “shaking his hand” during his interview on Versus.

Both teams should be sore tomorrow morning, but the Capitals can soothe themselves with a two-point lead in the Southeast thanks to great relief work by Holtby (making all 21 saves and going perfect in the shootout) and Alexander Semin’s continued success against the Lightning. Semin scored the game-tying goal, moving him to seven goals and two assists for nine points in only four games against Tampa Bay.

Guy Boucher’s decision to play the Tampa Bay’s best defensive forwards against Alex Ovechkin worked during regulation as the tactic kept the elite scorer off the board, but he still made an impact by scoring the shootout winner. In typical Ovechkin fashion, he showed plenty of emotion after the goal, holding a No. 1 finger up in the air as he passed the Lightning bench.

Boucher will be forced to ask questions about his choices for the shootout, as he left struggling Steven Stamkos and star winger Martin St. Louis on the bench in favor of Adam Hall and Dominic Moore. (His other choice was more conventional, though, as Vincent Lecavalier was the third shooter.)

Dwayne Roloson’s great effort will probably be lost in the shuffle, as he stopped 29 out of 30 shots during the game and was only beaten by Ovechkin in the shootout. It appeared that Martin St. Louis scored the Lightning’s lone goal on the power play, but Sean Bergenheim was eventually credited with a deflection tally.

The Capitals are now on a five-game winning streak while the Lightning are on a four-game skid. Washington built their division lead to two points, although Tampa Bay holds a game in hand and the same amount of wins (37). The two teams won’t meet again unless they play each other in the playoffs, so it’ll be interesting to see how this race closes out.

The incumbent Capitals currently have the advantage, but with a banged up Washington roster, it’s too early to count out the Lightning. Especially since Tampa Bay still left with a charity point.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Judge for yourself: Was Drouin’s would-be 1-0 goal offside?

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To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.

The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.

As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.

Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.

The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)

Lightning coach believes Drouin ‘is going to be dominant in this league’

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.

At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.

These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.

In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.

” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”

Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.

In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.

The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5