The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to receive contributions throughout their lineup despite the absence of some pretty significant pieces to the puzzle.
On Friday, as it opened up Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it was Steven Stamkos scoring his third goal of the playoffs at 19:28 in the second period to help Tampa Bay take a 1-0 series lead in the second-round bout following a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
Dwayne Roloson continued his hot streak in the postseason, as he won his fourth straight game, turning aside 26 shots on the night.
“I think we just stuck with our structure,” Stamkos said. “We knew that they had the firepower to score, but Roloson was great for us in net and our penalty kill was huge. It was a nice win for us.”
Stamkos’ game-winner came just 3:11 after Steve Downie tied the game at two goals apiece to pull the visitors back from a one-goal deficit. The goal was more of a lucky turn of events for the Lightning than it was a skillful goal, but in the end, it was undoubtedly welcomed after the Lightning mustered just a single goal in the club’s first-round Game 7 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As Vincent Lecavalier centered a pass to Downie in front of the net, the puck deflected off the tip of Capitals defenseman Scott Hannan’s stick and past Neuvirth at 16:17.
Bergenheim and Moore once again stepped in and fulfilled their grinding role for the Lightning, who needed it in Game 1, especially after both Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina left the game prematurely due to injury.
Gagne came down hard on his head after being dumped to the ice by Hannan along the boards and did not return, while Kubina skated off late in the second period.
“It was a tough game,” Lecavalier said. “They came pretty hard at us and it was definitely a challenge having three lines.”
That the series would be dictated by both teams’ high-octane offensive style was evident early after a quick pair of goals was exchanged by both teams at each end.
Bergenheim wasted no time opening the scoring to get the Lightning out to a quick start. As Downie drove towards the net with the puck, he sent a shot that deflected off the pad of Washington net minder Michal Neuvirth, but Bergenheim was there to shove it home for a 1-0 lead at 2:12. The goal was Bergenheim’s fourth of the postseason after notching just 14 in 80 games during the regular season.
It did, however, not last long.
Alex Semin tied it at one less than two minutes later by capitalizing on a careless turnover in Tampa Bay’s own defensive zone. As Brett Clark attempted to pass the puck through the middle of the ice to start the transition, the puck was tipped out in front and chased down by Semin, who wristed one through the legs of Roloson to even the score.
Eric Fehr had the other goal for the Capitals, who will once again have to play at least five games in the second round after it spotted the New York Rangers one game in their first-round series before finishing them off 4-1. Neuvirth made 20 saves.
Washington appeared to go up by one midway through the first, but the goal was waved off after officials determined Capitals defenseman Brooks Laich kicked the puck in before he could touch it with the toe of his stick to guide it into the net. Fehr, however, made the most of his opportunity with a nifty move on Mattias Ohlund to the inside before he beat Roloson to make it 2-1 at 1:51 of the second period.
“Both teams were having chances to score, but we knew they’re the powerhouse and that we have to be flawless,” head coach Guy Boucher said.
Tampa Bay caught a break in the closing minutes of the second period before adding an additional goal to take a one-goal lead into the final 20 minutes.
First, Downie was credited with the tying goal at 16:17 after Hannan inadvertently directed a centering pass into his own net, and Stamkos put the Lightning up 3-2 in the period’s final minute after putting back a second attempt from in close past Neuvirth’s pad at 19:28 on the power play.
After dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in Pittsburgh, the Lightning have now won each of their past four postseason games away from home. They were also perfect on the penalty kill to steal the home-ice advantage as it enters Game 2 on Sunday.
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