Tampa Bay players know they haven't won anything yet
The celebration on the ice was brief. The music was blaring in the locker room only for a few moments.
CAPITALS VS. LIGHTNING
- GAME 1: TBL 4, WSH 2
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- GAME 2: TBL 3, WSH 2 (OT)
WATCH | PHOTOS
- GAME 3: TBL 4, WSH 3
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- GAME 4: TBL 5, WSH 3
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Playoff Central ›
And now, it's back to business for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Sure, the team achieved something few thought they could do Wednesday when they completed a four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals in this Eastern Conference Semifinal with a 5-3 win at the St. Pete Times Forum.
But the Lightning aren't in this to win two rounds and go golfing. They're in this to win it.
"We haven't won the Cup yet," said forward Martin St. Louis, who helped Tampa Bay win its lone championship in 2004. "There's a lot of will in this room and good character and young guys -- similarities to the '04 team -- but that was a great team and a great run. This team has its own identity with a lot of different players.
"Everyone is playing their role and more. That's what you need in the playoffs. You can't just be playing your role. You've got to bring more to the table."
That's exactly what the Lightning have done these first two rounds. It's exactly why they'll enter the Eastern Conference Finals riding a seven-game winning streak. To think it was only two weeks ago when the Bolts had their backs against the wall, trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in their opening-round series.
They haven't lost since that 3-2 double-overtime loss in Game 4 on April 20.
"We get into a playoff series and we're playing Pittsburgh without (Sidney) Crosby and without (Evgeni) Malkin … we've got a chance here," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said. "Let's play it a game at a time and before you know it, we win that series. And then we're playing Washington and they've got a week to 10 days off and in Game 1, that's to our advantage and we're high as a kite. We win one game, now we're thinking, 'We've got a chance here.' That's the way it goes. In the next round, (coach) Guy (Boucher) and his staff will work hard and prepare and try to figure out a way to give ourselves a chance again."
So what is it about this team? How have the Lightning been able to accomplish this much in the Yzerman/Boucher Era in such a small amount of time?
From no playoffs for four years to 103 points this season? Rally from a 3-1 series deficit in the opening round? Sweep the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference? How is it possible?
"They're very professional and they're really a close-knit team," Yzerman said. "Guy and his staff and the players have really done a good job. They've been very unselfish. From Day 1 they've been team-oriented. They've done everything we've asked. They're very professional. I just think we're a real tight-knit team and I feel good about that."
Now they have a chance to feel good about what they just accomplished. Instead, they'll relax for 24 hours or so before focusing on the Eastern Conference Finals against an opponent yet to be determined.
"We have two days, so we can probably feel good for one day or so," said forward Sean Bergenheim, whose 2 goals in Game 4 tied him for the playoff scoring lead with 7 goals. "We've got to start focusing on the next series. We're not where we want to be. It's still a long way to go."
Few people in the Lightning dressing room know that better than Ryan Malone. He came within two victories of winning a Stanley Cup with his hometown Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008, only to be denied by the Detroit Red Wings. He joined Tampa Bay that summer and then watched his former teammates hoist Lord Stanley a year later.
Now, he's eight wins away from winning the Cup himself. If the Lightning are able to accomplish the feat, it will seem like an eternity from Wednesday. As Bergenheim said, they've still got a long way to go.
"We're definitely happy, but after every round we're not popping champagne or anything," Malone said. "We know what our goal is and we have to keep going and stay even keeled. We haven't done anything yet.
"Everyone is really coming together. Everyone cares for each other and it's really starting to become fun."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL