Critical Condition – A stunning second period in Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning gave Washington its first lead at an intermission in the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series between the two teams.
All season, the Caps were money in the bank with a lead after 40 minutes, going 31-0-3 in such situations including the playoffs.
Make that 31-1-3.
It took 24 terrible seconds to erase the Caps’ good work in the second period. Poor play in their own end cost the Capitals as Steven Stamkos cashed in a Washington turnover in its own end and ripped a laser of a one-timer past goalie Michal Neuvirth to tie the game at 3-3. Just 24 seconds later, Tampa Bay's Ryan Malone bulldozed one past Neuvirth on a 2-on-1 rush.
Malone’s goal proved to be the game-winner in a 4-3 Lightning win that puts the Capitals into a 0-3 hole in the series. Game 4 is Wednesday here in Tampa.
“We need to learn to play a full 60 minutes and not give up odd-man rushes,” says Caps center Jason Arnott. “We can’t give up back-to-back goals like that either. When they get a goal, we need to be even more prepared to have a big shift after that.”
As has been the case all series, the Lightning clamped down on that third period lead and gave Washington little to nothing the rest of the way. The Caps have managed a combined total of just 15 shots on goal in the final frame of the three games in this playoff series.
“We weren’t supposed to play safe,” laments Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We knew they were going to come out because they’ve come out in the third in the two previous games. We knew we had to keep pushing and doing what we do.”
For the third time in as many games, the Lightning struck first. The Caps lost the puck along the left wing wall coming out of their own end and the Bolts turned it into a 2-on-1 with Sean Bergenheim converting a pass from Dominic Moore to beat Neuvirth at 11:03.
Washington drew even at 1-1 in the first minute of the second when Ovechkin blazed in on a breakaway. Roloson made the initial save, but the Caps’ captain followed the puck to the left wing corner and threw it back at the net, where Mike Knuble was waiting to tuck it behind the Bolts goalie.
A couple of good offensive zone shifts later, Caps defenseman John Carlson took a pass from Jason Chimera and fired a shot from center point that beat Roloson. That goal gave Washington its first lead in the series in a span of 118 minutes, since late in the second period of Game 1.
That lead didn’t last long, either.
The Caps’ defense was unable to contain Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier, and he set up camp at the top of the paint and tipped one through Neuvirth less than four minutes after the Carlson goal.
With the game heading into the late stages of the second, Washington was trying to kill off a Nicklas Backstrom minor. Caps center Marcus Johansson made a good defensive play along the left wing wall in his own end to strip Bolts blueliner Eric Brewer, and Brewer then was whistled for holding as he attempted to prevent Johansson from breaking down the ice.
Tampa Bay managed to kill the Brewer minor, but just two seconds later went back on the kill when Brett Clark hauled Ovechkin down from behind. That Washington power play turned into a two-man advantage when the Lightning’s Adam Hall was called for hooking.
The Caps were a bit lead-footed on the 5-on-3, but they finally got a shot through and had the rebound come out to Ovechkin, who calmly deposited it high above a prone Roloson to give the Caps the lead once again at 3-2.
Washington then had to kill a slashing minor to Jason Arnott in order to be able to take a lead into the locker room for the first time in this series, only to see it evaporate in a span of 24 seconds.
“We just gave them lifelines,” says a visibly frustrated Mike Knuble. “I think we played well. We played the game that we wanted to play. We gave them a lifeline when we were leading and they tied it to make it 2-2. We go up 3-2 and we gave them another lifeline.
“They are uncanny when they want to get a goal. It’s like they just snap their fingers or hit a button. They just dial it up. You can see it. It’s like they flip a switch. When they are down, it’s just like they think ‘we know we are going to score.’ I don’t know what it is, it leaves you flabbergasted.”
Tampa Bay is now 4-0 in the playoffs when leading after one period, as they have done in each of the last two games of this series.
Star Power – Tampa Bay’s top three star players – Lecavalier, Stamkos and Martin St. Louis – have outperformed the Caps’ four vaunted “Young Guns” in this series.
The Tampa Bay trio has combined for six goals and four assists for 10 points. Washington’s foursome has accounted for three goals and three assists for six points. Ovechkin himself has two of those three goals and three of the six points.
Three Is Key – During the regular season, the Capitals were a deadly 40-0-3 when scoring three or more goals in a game. Tonight’s game marked the Caps’ first regulation loss of the season when scoring three or more, but Washington’s playoff record in such circumstances is not as dominant.
Since Boudreau took over in the middle of the 2007-08 season, the Capitals are 14-6 in playoff games when they score three or more goals. The Caps are 3-12 when scoring two or fewer goals in playoff games under Boudreau.
It Takes Two – The Capitals finally scored their first power play goal of the series in Game 3, but they needed a two-man advantage in order to get it done.
Facing a one-goal deficit in the third and given a power play opportunity on an Adam Hall hooking call, the Caps couldn’t muster as much as a shot on goal on the man advantage.
Washington was 1-for-5 on the power play on the night. The Caps managed just two shots on goal with the extra man in a span of 5:39.
For the series, the Capitals are now 1-for-16 (6.3%) on the power play. They’ve managed 19 shots on those 16 extra-man tries in a span of 25:56 of power play time. Washington was 3-for-16 (18.8%) with 20 shots in 25:29 of power play time during its first-round series with the New York Rangers.
Can’t Get Out Of Their Own Way – Two nights after a bad line change in overtime cost them Game 2 and a chance to possible pull even in the series at 1-1, the Caps were caught with too many men on the ice at the worst possible time, just before Knuble put the puck in the net in the first period.
The goal, which was nullified, cost the Caps a chance to score the game’s first goal for the first time in the series and also what would have been Washington’s first power play goal of the series, too.
“Laich was playing defense,” says Boudreau, “and he come off the ice and [Alexander] Semin went on and Carlson went on. Carlson was supposed to go on.”
Boudreau lamented after the game that he felt the call was harsh and the rule ambiguous to him, but replays show six skaters on the ice.
Man Down – Green didn’t play at all after the early stages of the third period.
“He got a lower body injury,” says Boudreau.
Green finished the night with just 13:24 of ice time.
Bright Spot – Johansson assisted on Carlson's goal. The rookie center now has six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs to rank fourth among all NHL rookies in playoff scoring.
Throttled In The Third – Tampa Bay has held the Capitals to exactly five shots on goal in the third period in each of the first three games of this series.
In its first-round series with Pittsburgh, the Lightning was outshot by a combined 85-59 in the third period.
By The Numbers – For the second time in the playoffs, and the second time in as many games, Ovechkin had as many shots on goal (five) as he had shots blocked and missed combined. In early other game during the postseason, he has had more shots blocked and missed than on goal … Eric Brewer led the Lightning with 26:16 in ice time … Backstrom led all Caps with 24:46 in ice time. Carlson led Caps blueliners with 24:31 … Ovechkin, Knuble, Matt Bradley and John Erskine led the Capitals with four hits each. Bradley got his in just eight shifts totaling 5:31 … Malone and Steve Downie paced the Lightning with five hits each … Tampa Bay blocked 19 shots to Washington’s eight. Mattias Ohlund led the way for the Bolts with five. Scott Hannan (three) was the only Capital with more than three blocked shots … Arnott won eight of 10 (80%) draws for the Capitals.
1 - 0 TBL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
Martin St. Louis
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 WSH
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 TBL
Too many men/ice - bench
Holding the stick