Game 5 preview: Lightning look for 1st home win of Eastern Conference Final as series shifts back to Tampa
TIME: 8 p.m.
The road team has won all four games, with Washington dominating its way to a 2-0 lead in Tampa, only to see the Lightning pull back even with two road wins themselves.
The Capitals are 7-1 on the road and 3-5 at home in the playoffs, so do the Lightning really have an advantage with two of the remaining three games at Amalie Arena?
“It seems like in this series, the pressure shifts on the home team,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, whose team is 5-1 on the road in the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Capitals. “The big, glaring 0-4 is staring at you. Home-ice advantage has been a disadvantage in this series. Having said that, I’d rather have Game 5 at home. I believe we’ll be a different team than we showed up in Games 1 and 2.”
In a battle of division winners, the Lightning are in the conference final for the third time in four years and the Capitals are here for the first time in 20 years.
Which will be the advantage to push one team to the Stanley Cup final?
Capitals forward Tom Wilson said the advantages of home ice are lessened in the playoffs, when both teams have ample energy and intensity because of what’s on the line.
“It doesn’t really matter this time of year, whether you’re home or away,” Wilson said after the Game 4 loss. “Every game is huge and the emotion is going to be there. Road, home, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to go after it and hopefully get the next one.”
Special teams have been at the center of Tampa Bay’s turnaround, as well as stellar play in net from Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning have gone 6 of 14 on their power play in the series, improving on the success rate for what was the NHL’s best power play in the regular season.
Even more impressively, Tampa Bay’s penalty kill, which ranked in the bottom five of the league in the regular season, went 7 of 7 on killing off Capitals power plays in the last two games. Three of those came in the final eight minutes of the first period Thursday night, as Tampa Bay held onto a 2-1 lead.
Steven Stamkos has dominated on the power play — six of his seven postseason goals and six of his nine postseason assists have come on that unit, matching Nikita Kucherov for the team scoring lead with 16 total points each.
Tampa Bay tied for the NHL lead with 25 road wins in the regular season, but it will need to win a home game to win this series. Overall in the playoffs, road teams are 40-34, on pace to challenge the NHL record for most postseason wins by a road team — 47 in 2012.