Lightning Strikes – Vincent Lecavalier scored the game-winner at 6:19 of overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Capitals at Verizon Center on Sunday night. With the win, the Lightning takes a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal set between the two teams.
The two teams traded goals in the game, with Washington drawing even late in the 59th minute of regulation on Alex Ovechkin’s game-tying tally that forced the extra session.
Washington was caught in a bad line change in overtime, and two quick, sharp passes from Randy Jones and then Teddy Purcell isolated Lecavalier all alone in front of Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth and sealed Washington’s fate.
“They made a line change and kind of snuck a guy behind us,” says Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz, who came over the boards and onto the just before the Lecavalier goal. “We just weren’t aware of that guy and they had a 2-on-1.
“I tried to jump on as quick as possible, but it wasn’t fast enough.”
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Capitals, who dominated the game for long stretches of time, and held the Lightning to just 16 even-strength shots on the game. Washington frittered away six power play chances though, and fell behind on Martin St. Louis’ fluky goal at 7:35 of the third.
The Caps pulled Neuvirth for an extra skater for an offensive zone draw at 18:17 of the final frame, and evened the game 35 seconds later when Alex Ovechkin finished off a series of quick passes behind the Tampa Bay net from Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Jason Arnott.
“We’re not going to hang our heads,” says Caps center Boyd Gordon. “It’s not an ideal situation, but we’ve got to just find a way. The next game is pivotal, and we’ve got to put in a good effort and find a way to get the win.”
“Well, the series is not over,” says Ovechkin. “We’re going there, and we’re going to win two games. It’s going to be hard, but right now in this situation, we have to win.”
Déjà vu in Reverse? – When these two teams met eight years ago for the first time in the playoffs, Washington won the first two games on the road. It then dropped each of the next four games, including a set of back-to-back games at Verizon Center in Games 3 and 4, on its way to a six-game series loss at the hands of the Bolts.
Two years ago, the Caps were in a 2-0 hole in a series after dropping the first two games of their first-round series with the Rangers on home ice. They rebounded to win in seven.
Tampa Bay has won five straight games, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit in its first-round set with Pittsburgh by winning three straight and then winning the first two of this series.
Washington was in the same spot two years ago; it won three straight to rally from a 3-1 hole against the Rangers then jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Pittsburgh in the second round. The Penguins won the next three and then took Game 7 and the series.
“Just keep working,” says Laich. “We’ve done it before. It starts with one. It starts with one win. Anything can happen in a series. We go in [to Tampa] and if we win Tuesday, you go right back at it the next night. They have the momentum right now, that’s fine. We’re going to come back and try to take it away from them on Tuesday.”
Who Needs Shots? – For the second straight game, the Lightning scored a goal when it was trying to make a pass. In Friday’s Game 1, Lightning forward Steve Downie tried to slide a pass in front of the Washington net, only to have it go into the cage off Caps defenseman Scott Hannan’s stick blade and over Neuvirth’s left shoulder.
Tonight, Martin St. Louis tried to make a similar pass, and again the Bolts scored their second goal of the game as the puck clicked off the skate blade of Caps defenseman Mike Green and glanced past Neuvirth.
Powerless – Hide the kids. This part isn’t going to be pretty. The Caps had six power play chances totaling 11:32 in a span of just 23:56 from the middle of the first period to the middle of the second. One of the reasons they had so much power play time was because they didn’t manage to score on any of those half dozen extra-man chances.
Washington is now 0-for-11 on the power play in this series, while the Lightning is 2-for-9. Those two tallies – plus two fluky Lightning strikes (one in each game) – have been the difference in the series to date.
The Capitals have now gone 22 straight playoff games without scoring more than one power play goal, dating back to Game 6 of the first round of the ’09 playoffs when they were 2-for-2 with the extra man against the Rangers in New York.
Since then, the Caps are 9-for-81 (11.1%) with the extra man in those 22 postseason games. They are 5-4 in the nine games in which they have scored a power play goal, and three of those four losses were overtime setbacks. The Caps are 5-8 in the last 13 playoff games in which they haven’t scored a power play goal.
Just in the last two playoff years – in a span of 14 postseason games – the Capitals are now 4-for-60 (6.7%) with the man advantage.
Generation Gap -- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there has been only one matchup of starting goaltenders in an NHL playoff game with a larger age difference than that between Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson and Washington's Michal Neuvirth (18 years, 162 days). That was the difference of 20 years, 304 days when Toronto’s Johnny Bower (age 42) opposed Montreal’s Rogie Vachon (age 21) in Games 2 and 3 of the 1967 Stanley Cup Final.
Can’t Keep A Good Man Down – St. Louis had gone three games without a point for just the second time since the start of the 2010-11 season. He had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s Game 2.
St. Louis has not gone as many as four straight games without a point since a four-game dry spell from Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2009.
Ohnovertime – Tampa Bay has now won all three of the postseason overtime games it has played at Verizon Center. Lecavalier has supplied two of the game-winners in those games, and St. Louis the other.
Keeping Up With The Joneses – Playing in his first playoff game of 2011 because of an injury to defenseman Pavel Kubina, Randy Jones skated just 6:25 on nine shifts. But he took a hit from Matt Bradley to make the play that ended the game, and earned the secondary assist on Lecavalier’s game-winner in the extra session.
Outgunned, But Not Outscored – The Lightning has been outshot in all nine of its postseason games in 2011. The Bolts are 6-3 in those games, and they’re currently rolling on a five-game winning spree.
By The Numbers – Ovechkin logged 7:43 in power play ice time and Green had 7:37. Laich paced the Caps’ forwards with 23:34 and John Carlson the defensemen with 26:45 … For the second straight game, Nicklas Backstrom led the Caps in shots on goal. He had five on Friday and six on Sunday … Ovechkin led the Capitals with six hits … Eric Brewer led Tampa Bay defensemen with 28:33 in ice time. Mattias Ohlund led the Lightning defensemen with 6:41 in shorthanded ice time. Ohlund also led the Bolts with six blocked shots … Adam Hall led Lightning forwards with 6:29 in shorthanded ice time … Gordon led the Caps with 9-of-11 (82%) in the face-off circle.
Martin St. Louis