May 3 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum
Game 3, Eastern Conference Semifinal Series (Tampa Bay leads, 2-0)
Time: 6:30 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Capitals Radio Network Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m. on www.washingtoncaps.com
Tampa Bay Lightning (46-25-11 in regular season)
Washington Capitals (48-23-11 in regular season)
After dropping the first two games of their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series with the Tampa Bay Lightning on home ice, the Capitals are now faced with the task of winning at least two tilts in the Bolts’ barn if they hope to extend their season beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Capitals will get their first chance on Tuesday when Tampa Bay hosts Game 3 of the set at the St. Pete Times Forum.
“We have been in tough situations this year and we’ve bounced back,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We’re going in there to win Tuesday night. I think the games have been so close. It’s one move here and one move there. It’s not like we’re going to go in there and throw in the towel. We’re ready to play.”
Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Lightning put the Caps down a couple of games in the series, but Washington feels as though it played well enough to win.
“We’ve just got to win one game, just keep plugging,” says Caps left wing Jason Chimera. “We’ve been there before. This team has won 14 in a row and nine in a row, so we can do it. It’s not like we can’t put wins together. We played pretty well [Sunday] night, just a couple of mistakes hurt us. They’re a pretty opportunistic team and they’ve got some guys who can hurt you. We’ve just got to get back in it.”
Getting the game’s first goal wouldn’t hurt the Caps. Including the six regular season meetings between the Capitals and the Lightning, Washington has scored the games first goal just once in eight games. The Lightning has shown an ability to take the air out of the game when leading late; the Caps have managed just five shots on goal in the third period of each of the first two games.
Washington did dominate the play for much of Sunday’s Game 2, but trailed 2-1 late on a Vincent Lecavalier power play goal and a fluky third-period strike by Martin St. Louis, a pass that glanced into the net off the skate blade of Caps defenseman Mike Green.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau pulled goaltender Michal Neuvirth for an extra skater, and captain Alex Ovechkin delivered the game-tying strike with just 1:08 remaining in regulation.
The Capitals came out strong in overtime, and centers Marcus Johansson and Boyd Gordon each had strong scoring chances. A sloppy Washington line change just past the six-minute mark put an end to the game as Lecavalier struck again following two quick precision passes.
Now, the Caps head to Florida where Games 3 and 4 will be played on successive nights at the St. Pete Times Forum. Washington believes a win in Game 3 might also deliver the momentum needed to take Game 4 and send the series back to the District all knotted up.
“Whatever does happen in Game 3,” says Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz. “It gives that team an opportunity to get right back out the next night and just continue what’s happening.
“We’ve been through a lot, and we know what to expect and what to expect of ourselves. There’s no doubt in our mind that we can come back.”
Including three straight wins over the Penguins to rebound from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round, the Lightning has now won five straight games.
“They’re a good team,” says Caps center Boyd Gordon. “They play their systems well and they’ve got good special teams. We just haven’t found a way to get it done. It’s getting pretty dire now, so we’ve got to find a way to get a win in Game 3.”
Tampa Bay has had a power play goal in each of the first two games of the series, and the Lightning penalty killers have shut down the Capitals’ extra-man unit. Washington is 0-for-11 on the power play in this series. The Caps are now 3-for-27 (11.1%) with the extra man in the 2011 playoffs and 4-for-60 (6.7%) in their last two trips to the postseason.
“It’s really frustrating,” says Boudreau. “And believe me, we’re not just sitting there as a group of coaches and saying, ‘Oh, okay, it’s not working.’ We’re going over this thing with a fine-toothed comb. We’re trying to make adjustments as we go. But it’s [the players] that have to do it.
“We all want it to happen, but it’s not going our way. We’re trying to make changes when we see things that aren’t working. We’ll make changes again, and hopefully we’ll get it right tomorrow.”
In Sunday’s Game 2, the Capitals spent 11:32 on the power play in a span of just 23:56 in game time from the middle of the first to the middle of the second period.
“Yeah, both nights,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble, asked if the lack of power play success was the difference in the first two games. “It’s the reason why they won Game 1 and then [Sunday] again, too. They got one on the PP and we didn’t. It was a wasted opportunity by us. To have those multiple chances and not have it go in, that’s the difference in the game right there.”
Tampa Bay didn’t allow the Caps to get set in the zone for good looks, and got frequent clears which allowed for fresh sets of penalty killers.
“I thought we stuck with it,” says Knuble. “Guys weren’t complaining on the bench or anything. We know we have the guys who can do it and it’s a question of executing it. Guys want to score. There’s frustration that they’re not scoring. We expect a lot out of our power play.”
With a bounce here and a power play goal there, the Caps could be the team with a 2-0 lead in this series. Now, they’ve got to shelf their frustration and win some hockey games.
“We’re doing a lot of things right,” says Schultz. “Just the bounces aren’t going our way. But we’re going to keep at it and hopefully the bounces start coming.”
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” admits Knuble. “We’ve got to go down there and win some games. It’ll be a big sense of urgency around here. Hopefully, we can all raise our games and come out with a victory. We’re doing a lot of good things, but they happen to be very opportunistic when they have the chance.
“The effort and the commitment were there. We didn’t convert on the power play, but we were doing a lot of good things. After tying it up, I think we were all excited and felt like we had a great chance to win the game.”
Washington has played five of its seven playoff games on home ice this spring, winning three of the five. The Caps need to improve on their 1-1 road playoff record starting on Tuesday night in Tampa Bay.
Notes: Tampa Bay has been outshot in each of its nine playoff games this spring … The Lightning has allowed 30 or more shots on goal in eight of nine playoff games, but the Bolts have yet to allow more than three goals … Washington has allowed more than three goals just once in its seven playoff games. That was in Game 1 of this series when the Bolts scored an empty-netter in the final minute of regulation for their fourth goal in a 4-2 win.