Despite the Washington Capitals earning two big series victories this postseason, one thing they have not been able to do is get off on the right foot. They changed that trend on Friday night, taking down the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 4-2. Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play and added an assist, while Braden Holtby made 19 saves in a game that Washington never trailed at Amalie Arena. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, and Lars Eller all found the back of the net, as the Capitals started hot in their first Conference Finals appearance since 1998, and first in Ovechkin's career. They led by a score of 4-0 heading into the third period, but the Lightning would make it more respectable with a couple goals in the final 20 minutes. Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat netted third-period goals, but the Lightning could not do anything with an empty net down the stretch. They were also forced to pull starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed four goals on 25 shots through two periods. Tampa Bay may not need to worry too much, as they did drop the first game at home to the Boston Bruins in the second round, before winning four in a row to advance. Ovechkin's goal was his ninth of this postseason, as well as his 55th overall in 110 career playoff games. The Capitals will stay in Tampa Bay for Game 2 of the series on Sunday night.
Blue Jays Spoil Sale's Outing With Walk-Off
The Boston Red Sox tried their best to move on from a series loss to the New York Yankees this past week, but a tough loss on Friday night was not the recipe for that to happen. Despite Chris Sale's masterful efforts, the Toronto Blue Jays walked off with a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox in 12 innings on Friday. Luke Maile hit the walk-off blast, which was his second of the game, as the Red Sox stayed in a tie for first in the AL East with the Yankees, who lost to the Oakland Athletics on Friday night. Maile's long ball was his first-career walk-off hit, and also gave him his first-career multi-home run game. He added a big game-tying home run off of Sale in the seventh inning, and there was no scoring until his game-winner. Sale lasted nine innings and struck out 15 batters on the night, but Maile prevented him from earning the much-deserved win. Brian Johnson gave up the game-ending hit for the Red Sox, who got a long ball from Xander Bogaerts, while also scoring on a J.D. Martinez groundout and a wild pitch. Maile's home runs were his first since May 31st, 2017, and they both helped avenge his throwing error on a strike three that gave the Red Sox a 3-2 lead. Sale did not walk a batter, and became just the third pitcher in Red Sox history to do that while striking out at least 15 batters. Pedro Martinez had four of those games, while Roger Clemens did it three times, but none of those resulted in a loss. These two teams have two more battles this weekend, including on Saturday afternoon.
Raptors Part Ways With Dwane Casey
There comes a time for every organization that regular season success is just not enough to secure a job. That was the case for the top seed in the Eastern Conference this season, the Toronto Raptors, who did the expected move and fired head coach, Dwane Casey, on Friday afternoon. This comes after the Raptors were swept away by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, which was the third straight year that they were knocked out by LeBron James's team. This move comes about a month after Casey was voted NBA's Coach of the Year, as he had one year left on his contract, which was worth $6.5 million. The Raptors set a franchise record with 59 wins this past regular season, and did earn a 4-2 series win in the first round against the Washington Wizards. Casey did see his team's record improve in six of his seven seasons with the Raptors, and is quickly a top candidate for vacant head coaching gigs, including the Detroit Pistons. Despite all the great numbers and records in the regular season, the lack of playoff success haunted Casey's tenure with the Raptors. Kyle Lowry said after the move that despite not seeing eye to eye the entire time with Casey "he let me be me." The point guard also credited Casey for him and DeRozan being the four-time All-Stars that they are. This may just be the first of multiple moves that the Raptors face, with hopes of finally advancing in the Eastern Conference.