Vincent Lecavalier made sure a late opposing game-tying goal didn’t turn into anything more.
Lecavalier scored his second goal of the game 6:19 into overtime, and the fifth-seeded Lightning beat the Capitals 3-2 Sunday night for a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Tampa Bay appeared headed for a much simpler victory, leading 2-1 in the third period, but Ovechkin forced the extra period by scoring with 67 seconds left in regulation.
The Lightning captain scored 6:19 into overtime and Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals Sunday night.
After winning Game 1 at the Verizon Center on Friday, the Lightning will now come home with a 2-0 series lead as the second-round bout shifts to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4 at home beginning Tuesday night.
“We’ve been in this situation before when a team comes back, but you just have to go out and play,” Lightning wing Martin St. Louis said. “We regrouped after the overtime and we came out hungry and composed.”
With the puck along the end boards at the far end of the ice and the Capitals in the middle of a shift, defenseman Randy Jones sent a long pass onto the stick of Teddy Purcell in the offensive zone, who then found Lecavalier all alone in front of Washington net minder Michal Neuvirth. The Lightning captain received the puck and deked the goaltender with a subtle hesitation move before putting a shot high over the shoulder to end it.
“It was a great play by Teddy,” Lecavalier said. “I knew I had to get the puck up high. Neuvirth is a great goaltender and I think he had the angle, but I knew if I could get the shot up high I would have a chance.”
The game-winning tally was Lecavalier’s third of the postseason, which leads all skaters in the 2011 playoffs.
The game, however, almost did not call for Lecavalier’s postseason heroics, but they were deemed necessary after Alex Ovechkin tied things up at two with just 1:07 to play in regulation.
With Neuvirth on the bench in favor of the extra skater, Jason Arnott sent a centering pass in front of the net, which found Ovechkin’s stick and beat Roloson high up below the crossbar to force the extra period.
Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman initially had lost his stick earlier in the sequence and was using one of his teammates’ on the play. The lefty-shooting defenseman, however, was stuck with a right-handed stick, which allowed Ovechkin to maneuver out in front with little difficulty.
It was the second straight year Washington needed a goal with less than two minutes to play in regulation to avoid going down 2-0 in a series at home. John Carlson got Washington to overtime in Game 2 against Montreal last spring before Nicklas Backstrom scored 31 seconds into overtime, although the Capitals did eventually fall in seven games to the Canadiens.
Lecavalier finished the night with two goals, as he also opened the scoring and beat Neuvirth with a slap shot on the power play to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead at 19:01 in the first period.
St. Louis had the other goal for the Lightning, who have now won five in a row and have victories in each of their past five road playoff contests as well.
Just as Tampa Bay did in Game 1, Washington utilized the strategy of getting pucks to the net to their advantage. It worked late in the second to help Washington send a 1-1 game into the second intermission.
Brooks Laich was credited with Washington’s first goal after the puck deflected off the shoulder of Roloson and in following a scramble near the front of the net.
Tampa Bay then went up 2-1 when a shot by St. Louis to the far post deflected off the skate of Capitals defenseman Mike Green and in at 7:35 into the final frame.
History does not offer much hope for the Capitals as they head to Tampa Bay down in a 2-0 hole. Washington led Tampa Bay by two games in their playoff series in 2003, but the Lightning won Games 3 and 4 on back-to-back days and went on to claim the series in six.
Washington's power play continued to struggle, as the Capitals squandered three more chances Sunday after going 0-for-5 in Game 1.
“Overall I think we played a pretty solid game,” Lecavalier added. “It’s tough to come here and win twice, and it didn’t make it any easier because they played hard.”
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