Lightning head home halfway to upset of Capitals
Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the top-seeded Washington Capitals
kept repeating the thought, almost as if trying to convince
”Well,” Ovechkin said, ”the series is not over.”
That is true, of course.
At the moment, though, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to
end things pretty quickly.
With a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference
semifinal, the streaking Lightning are halfway to eliminating the
Capitals. The series shifts to Tampa for Game 3 on Tuesday,
followed by Game 4 the next night in a scheduling quirk prompted by
a University of South Florida graduation ceremony scheduled for
Thursday at the Lightning’s arena.
”We’re going there, and we’re going to win two games,”
Ovechkin said. ”It’s going to be hard, but right now in this
situation, we have to win.”
That’s because the Capitals’ captain was outdone by the
Lightning’s captain, Vincent Lecavalier, in Game 2 on Sunday night.
Lecavalier netted his second goal of the game 6:19 into overtime,
and the fifth-seeded Lightning beat the Capitals 3-2.
Washington’s power play went 0 for 6 on Sunday, and is 0 for 11
in the series. The Lightning have turned aside 45 of 46
short-handed situations this postseason.
”That was the difference right there,” Lecavalier said. ”We
gave them a lot of power plays – we were a little bit undisciplined
with our sticks – but our penalty killing was phenomenal.”
Plus, while the Capitals might be wishing that penalties could
be declined in the NHL, the Lightning scored a power-play goal in
each game at Washington.
”We didn’t capitalize on special teams,” Capitals coach Bruce
Boudreau said, ”and that was the big key.”
Said Ovechkin, who tied the game with 67 seconds left in
regulation for his first point of the series: ”We just have to go
to the net and find the puck.”
Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves as the Lightning won their fifth
consecutive game – and their fifth in a row on the road.
”It’s a great feeling to win those two games,” said forward
Martin St. Louis, who put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1 in the third period,
”but we haven’t done anything yet.”
Both teams know from recent experience that a two-game series
deficit is hardly insurmountable.
Tampa Bay trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 in the first round before
taking three games in a row to knock out the Penguins. And it was
just last season that the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals blew
a 3-1 lead against the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens and were
upset in seven games. In 2009, the Capitals were in the exact
situation they are now – down 0-2 after dropping two at home –
before coming back to eliminate the New York Rangers.
”It’s first to four, and that’s the way we’ve got to look at
it,” Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan said. ”It’s not the way we
wanted to start, but there’s a lot of games left.”
Echoed Brooks Laich, who scored Washington’s first goal: ”We’re
definitely not out of it. It’s a tough loss, but we’re going to
Tampa Bay appeared headed for a much simpler victory Sunday,
leading 2-1 thanks to a fluke goal about 7 1/2 minutes into the
third period: St. Louis was trying to send a cross-crease pass to
Lecavalier, but the puck clanged off Capitals defenseman Mike
Green’s skate and caromed in.
”You take those,” St. Louis said.
Then, with time running out, and the Capitals having pulled
their goaltender for an extra skater, Laich passed to Jason Arnott,
who sent the puck through a defenseman’s legs and in front of the
Two-time NHL MVP Ovechkin – who else? – was in the right spot at
the right time and lofted a high shot past Roloson. As Ovechkin and
his teammates celebrated, along with the red-clad sellout crowd,
the momentum seemed to have moved.
”I felt very comfortable going into overtime,” Boudreau
Lightning coach Guy Boucher’s take?
”Through the course of these playoffs, what the players and
this team have learned is to stay calm under pressure,” Boucher
said. ”That’s what the players did: reloaded. And I always believe
it’s not about momentum; it’s about desperation.”
So maybe the Lightning were the more desperate team in the extra
period, knowing how important it would be to steal another victory.
In the end, they caught the Capitals in the middle of a line
change; Hannan shouldered the blame afterward.
Tampa Bay defenseman Randy Jones – who hadn’t played since March
7, but was in the lineup Sunday because of an injury to Pavel
Kubina in Game 1 – sent a long pass to Teddy Purcell off the
boards. Purcell slid the puck across the ice to Lecavalier, who
flipped it over rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Taking a page out of Ovechkin’s playbook, Lecavalier leaped into
the glass behind the net before being surrounded by teammates.
It was Ovechkin who was in the penalty box for high-sticking
when Lecavalier made it 1-0 with 58.8 seconds left in the first
period by zooming a slap shot past Neuvirth, who wound up with 20
”We got two lucky wins here,” said Lecavalier, ”and hopefully
we can go home and push them back a little bit.”
NOTES: After not allowing a first-period goal in the five games
of their first-round series, the Capitals have given up one in each
game against the Lightning. … Capitals RW Mike Knuble played
after missing three games with a suspected hand injury. … The
Lightning were without two players who got injured in Game 1: LW
Simon Gagne and Kubina. Like Randy Jones, C Blair Jones played for
the first time this postseason.