KELLEY: Caps can't stop Lightning's top line

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Jim Kelley

If the series between the Tampa Bay and the Washington has proven anything thus far, it is that the has been a one-line team: And that the don't know how to stop it. scored the goal that proved to be the game-winner in Tampa's 2-1 triumph Friday night in the St. Petersburg Times Forum. Vinny Prospal scored the team's first goal. Those two, combined with center have scored every goal for Tampa in the series thus far. That's a serious problem for the who now are one game away from elimination in a series they once led, 2-0. As we've told you several times throughout this series, the have a history of losing series in which they've won the first two games. They've done it three times since 1992 and five times in the last 16 years. Worse for Washington is that goalie has been a part of several of those losses and his record in games in which the Caps have faced elimination is a woeful 1-4. That's not a good sign for the as the series moves back to Washington. The have already won two games at the MCI Center in downtown D.C. and Friday became the first team in the series to win a home game. That's an irony of magnificent proportion given that the two teams battled right down to the last days of the regular season to secure home-ice advantage for the series (Tampa got it with a solid closing kick) and neither team could win a game on home ice until the broke through in this one. We picked the to win this series but we by no means think it's a lock to end on Sunday. The played a decent road game on Friday and showed few of the tell-tale signs of quitting. They did, however, play soft for too much of the contest, refusing to go hard to the net and not making any kind of hard-nosed defensive plays, especially against the Lecavalier unit that is the sole reason they are now losing this series. Short of a massive infusion of character and grit into the Washington lineup, the key to Game 6 will be the first goal. The team that scores first so far has won every game in this series. That was the case again Friday when Prospal scored on a somewhat controversial power play. The got a four-minute man advantage when Kolzig was called for high-sticking (and drawing blood from) Lecavalier. It was an accidental high stick that came about as a follow-through from Kolzig clearing the puck. That kind of play has always been open to interpretation in the NHL. Certainly a player is responsible for his stick at all times, but Kolzig was playing the puck and is entitled to a follow-through on the play. As a point of comparison, there was no penalty called on of the Philadelphia earlier in the week when Roenick KO'ed Toronto scoring star with his stick. Roenick was falling down on the play and wasn't involved in a shot or even near the puck, yet he not only cut Mogilny, he knocked him out of the game and the following game Thursday night. There was no penalty called. Had the play been called the same way as in the Tampa-Washington game, Roenick could have been cited for a high stick (he hit Mogilny under his chin), careless use of the stick or even been given a five-minute major. The difference is clearly subjective, but from our point of view, the call on Kolzig was wrong. Worse, the power play came in the second half of the four-minute power play, a point where the felt doubly betrayed because they had killed off the first two minutes of a minor they thought shouldn't have been called and then had to kill a second two minutes that they protested even more than the first two. A point worth noting: was reinstated with the after being left behind for the two games in Washington, the fallout from taking some careless penalties and then having a dispute about it with his coach, John Tortorella. Tortorella didn't move much, however. He made Roy a healthy scratch.

Not done yet

The Vancouver have a horrible home record in the playoffs (one win in 12 games prior to Friday's encounter with the St. Louis ). They turned that around at absolutely the right time in this series. Facing elimination Friday, the won, 5-3, but they're not out of trouble yet. St. Louis still has two games to win one and the next one is Sunday on the ' home ice. Still, the can draw from the fact that the -Todd Bertuzzi duo finally got untracked in this game. That's an absolute imperative if the are to have any success in making it back from a 3-1 deficit. The outburst of scoring in this game is especially important for the in that they just may be getting over a severe case of early-playoff jitters and the failed mindset that came upon them after blowing a chance to win the Northwest Division championship. The were second in the NHL in terms of scoring, trailing only the Detroit . Vancouver had 264 goals in the regular season, but prior to this game had been outscored 14-4 by the . Lack of timely scoring and a penchant for stupid and numerous penalties have set the back in this series. That said, we picked St. Louis, we still like them and view the win Friday as similar to Boston's Game 4 win over New Jersey in the FleetCenter. These things are tough to close out when a team is on the road, but the series shifts back to St. Louis on Sunday and the are going to put it all on the line to avoid a return trip to Vancouver for a Game 7. The might not be that good at home in the postseason, but there's no question that momentum swings their way if they can get the series to that point. We say the and especially goalie won't let it happen. Senior writer covers the NHL for FOXSports.com and can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Red Wings, Flyers, Blues, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Capitals, Andre Roy, Jeremy Roenick, Vincent Lecavalier, Alexander Mogilny, Markus Naslund, Olaf Kolzig

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