Lightning at Capitals Game 3 Preview
The suddenly struggling Tampa Bay Lightning look to begin digging out of a deep hole in the Eastern Conference final series when they visit the red-hot Washington Capitals for Game 3 on Tuesday night. The Lightning dropped the first two games of the series at home by a combined score of 10-4 and a team has not rebounded from down 2-0 to win a conference final since Pittsburgh beat Boston in 1991.
“I’m confident in our group,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters Monday. “They’ve got 113 points (in the regular season) for a reason. … They’ve got a ton of experience, and when their backs have been against the wall, they’ve shown the propensity to fight back. This is a tough one. We lost two at home and it’s definitely not an ideal situation. But we’re not done. It’s not over.” Washington lost the first two games at home in the first-round series against Columbus, but won four in a row to move on and are 10-2 in the last 12 games after scoring the final five goals of Sunday’s 6-2 triumph. The Capitals have scored seven of their 10 goals at even strength and Tampa Bay, which dominated Boston while playing 5-on-5 in the semifinal series, has scored three of its four on the power play in the opening two contests. “It’s huge, but it’s not over yet,” Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored in each of the first two games, told reporters. “We’re going to (have to) come back home and do our thing and take another one. It’s going to be hard. They have tremendous players over there and we just have to play the same way and don’t give them anything.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING: The team has plenty of confidence in Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has allowed 10 goals in five periods of hockey during this series with little help from his defense after posting a .927 save percentage in the first two rounds. “We all have tremendous belief in him, and he’s a rock for our team,” Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman told reporters. “He’s going to be back and be his best. We’re not making his job easier by executing our game plan defensively and offensively. The scoring chances are way up compared to the previous series and that’s on us, not him.” Captain Steven Stamkos has scored in four of his last five games while compiling seven points in that stretch.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS: Lars Eller is prospering after moving up to the second-line center role with Nicklas Backstrom (hand) missing the last three games, recording two goals and two assists in the first two contests of this series. “He’s got all the qualities of a playoff-type player,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told reporters of Eller. “He’s big. He’s strong. He’s got some experience. He’s very competitive. He’s got a good skill level. He’s playing to his ability right now. … He’s one of the guys that’s stepped up in a major way for us.” Ovechkin, who shares the team lead with Kuznetsov at 19 points in the playoffs, is the second Washington player to reach 10 goals in a postseason run by joining John Druce (14 in 1990).
1. Washington D John Carlson has three assists in the series and 13 points in the playoffs, most by a Capitals blue liner in team history.
2. Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman boasts a seven-game point streak, passing Martin St. Louis (2004) for the franchise playoff record.
3. The Capitals are 0-2 in their playoff history when winning the first two games of a series on the road, including a loss to Tampa Bay in 2003.