The Tampa Bay Lightning had an opportunity to go up 3-0 in the series over the Eastern Conference top seed the Washington Capitals and took advantage of it, winning Game 3 on home ice 4-3.
Once again, the Caps had a very slow start: along with being completely stationary in the offensive zone, they took far too many of their shots from 30+ feet, keeping quality chances at a minimum again. Also, for the third straight game, the Caps allowed a goal in the first period, although it was not in the waning seconds of the frame.
However, in the second period, the Caps were able to tie the game just under a minute into the second period, as Mike Knuble finally notched one for Washington. The momentum seemed to continue, as John Carlson notched his second goal of the playoffs. Even though Vincent Lecavalier tied the game up again, the Capitals didn’t take too long to get back ahead on Alex Ovechkin’s 5-on-3 goal. The Caps kept the pressure on the Lightning and seldom gave the Lightning opportunities to produce more offense. It was the best period of hockey this series.
The third period looked promising for Washington at the beginning, as they kept the puck in Tampa’s zone and kept the Lightning away from their own end… until Steven Stamkos scored his first goal of the series five minutes in. Just 24 seconds later, Ryan Malone also got his first of the series, and put the Bolts up 4-3. After the Lightning regained the lead, they completely shut down the Capitals’ offense and took over the game. Through fifteen minutes in the third period, Tampa Bay had 12 shots to the Caps’ one shot in the final frame of the match, and reverted back to keeping Washington out of their barracks. The Capitals were only able to muster up four more shots through the third.
The Capitals essentially have looked defeated in three straight games. According to Caps reporter Sky Kerstein, Washington was 43-0-1 when they scored three goals or more until tonight. Things do not look so good for them at this point because sadly for Caps fans, this was probably their best game all series, and they still could not keep it up for more than a period.
Even though the Caps finally got a goal on the power play, as Alex Ovechkin moved from the point to the slot area to score a beauty, Washington was most stationary here. The Caps’ immobile power play has been a symptom of the team when they are playing from behind all season long . This failure to look alive and keep moving gave the Lightning chances to obtain loose pucks, just like they have all series long. Had the Caps been able to keep the puck going on the power play and then continue that on through 5-on-5 play, they could have exposed the Lightning’s slower defensemen. The Caps continue to look as though they have made no adjustments.
Much credit, however, to Guy Boucher and the Lightning for a.) taking advantage of the Capitals’ passive play and b.) causing them much of their havoc.
The Caps lost Game 2 because they got caught on a line change when the Lightning through a long pass up the zone to lead up to the Lecavalier overtime goal. Tampa Bay continued to use this method to slow the Capitals’ defense down and catch Michal Neuvirth off guard to score. Through this style of play, and many other tricks in the game, Guy Boucher seems as though he is outcoaching his counterpart Bruce Boudreau to the naked eye.
After last game, I said the Caps have a pretty good chance to set this series straight coming back from being down 2-0. That oh-so-intimidating three games to none factor though sets in now, and it is only that much more difficult to win the series, since there is now no room for mistakes. Also, history was on the Caps’ side for tonight’s game, but it makes the situation even more desperate for Washington being down 3-0. The Capitals have not been able to force more than one more game while facing an elimination by
sweep, and when they did push the series to five games, those matches were on home ice. One ounce of hope for them is that just last year, the Philadelphia Flyers did come back from a 0-3 series deficit and beat the Boston Bruins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Capitals are much more skilled and talented team than they have shown the last three games. With players like Jason Arnott, Nick Backstrom, and Alex Semin, Washington should have been able to show up for at least one game. But with the Caps’ stars showing up less and less and the Lightning’s stars starting to really turn it on, it is going to be even more difficult to turn the series around for Caps. Nonetheless, Ovechkin, the Capitals’ captain said after tonight’s game, “It is not over. We won’t give up. We’re going to win.”
Game 4 will be Wednesday, May 4 at 7 p.m. at Tampa Bay.
Notes: Mike Green left the game early in the third period. According to Capitals Insider’s Katie Carrera, Green was seen leaving the arena “limping heavily on his left leg.”