Lightning strikes the Capitals in Game 3: 3 takeaways

Cristina Cross
May 17, 2018

The Tampa Bay Lightning said after Game 2 that the Capitals had robbed them of their identity, after two uncharacteristic defeats on home ice to open the Eastern Conference finals. The goals also extended the Lightning's consecutive games with a power-play goal streak to eight.

The Lightning power play was the only thing working for them in the first two games of the series. "It's a step in the right direction".

This is who the Lightning are: They defended expertly, limiting the odd-man rushes the Capitals used to outscore them 10-4 in the first two games.

The Capitals score with just 3:02 remaining in the game.

And though they may not admit it, thrashing the Lightning twice on the road may have sent the message that the hardest part of the Cup quest was over.

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It was Stamkos' sixth goal of the playoffs and his third power play goal of the Eastern Conference final.

Steven Stamkos opened the scoring 13:53 into the first period.

"We can take a few things that we've done on the road and put it into our home game", goalie Braden Holtby said.

And once Stamkos fired home that laser beam, they began to look more like the team that won more than any other in the east this regular season. I don't know who you're grouping in the top players, but you think of Kucherov and Stamkos, those guys leading the charge, when we've needed them in the big games ... those guys have delivered when we've needed them. The cameras dispersed. He turned and walked toward the dressing room, leaving only one matter unsettled: Whose goal was nicer, Kucherov's or his?

They were damn near mirror images, cannonballs with silencers fixed to the muzzles, scorched from opposite faceoff circles into nothing but net.

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But Tampa restored the three-goal lead when Point somehow found a puck in a scrum in front the Washington goal and whacked it through the legs of Stephenson to beat Holtby. "When you get to the playoffs, really it's the team that wins". We talked about this. But that wasn't long enough to get the Capitals out of their game. That's probably because, to put it simply, the Golden Knights have looked the most like this year's team of destiny, rallying behind Marc-Andre Fleury and incredible offensive balance to defy the forecasts that maybe had them as a competent, not contending, team in their first year of existence. That was big for us. When Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his ninth of the post-season to make it 4-2, with about three minutes to go, there were a lot of empty seats in Capital One Arena. Pointer getting that fourth one kind of popped the balloon. But Washington's power play could not connect on its opportunities the way that Tampa Bay had. He wants the Lightning to be feeling better but not too good still down 2-1. "You've got to check in this league".

Both teams back to full strength.

Hedman's 5-on-5 game still needs some work, but No. 77 scored his first goal of the playoffs and added two helpers so no one will be complaining too much.

"We always feel like we owe him", defenseman Anton Stralman said. "He's our best player". We're invested there. We're playing with real good focus. "They scored, we didn't and that's on us", Kuznetsov said. They reclaimed their identity and their confidence, correcting their course in effort to reclaim ownership of this series.

"We checked. That was it", he said. "We've made it a series. That's what we came in here tonight to do".

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