The Tampa Bay Lightning moved one big step closer to a sweep of the Washington Capitals with a 4-3 win at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight.
To call the victory hard fought would be an understatement but by any measure it was well-earned as the Lightning had to withstand and bounce back from a second period surge by the Capitals which left the visitors entering the final period with a 3-2 lead.
Tampa Bay jumped out early to a 1-0 advantage when Sean Bergenheim continuing, his strong playoff performance, completed a give-and-go with Dominic Moore for his fifth playoff goal at 11:03 of the first period. Steve Downie also earned an assist on the goal, his eighth of the playoffs.
The goal came amid a first period that saw the Capitals open the game with determination, collecting seven of the first eight shots on net, including one that slipped passed Lightning netminder Dwayne Roloson, but was called back because Washington had too many men on the ice.
The Capitals continued to battle in the second period, tying the game with a goal by Mike Knuble just 59 seconds into the stanza. Washington grabbed the lead, 2-1, seven minutes later when John Carlson’s shot from the point worked its way past a crowd in front of Roloson and found the net.
Vincent Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis combined to re-tie the game at 11:51 of the period when Lecavalier deposited a centering feed from St. Louis past Capital netminder Michal Neuvirth. The goal was Lecavalier’s fifth of the playoffs, tying him for the team lead with St. Louis. Teddy Purcell was credited with his ninth assist of the playoffs on the score.
The goal was a brief respite in the Washington assault, however, as the Capitals regained the lead on a five-on-three power play as Alex Ovechkin swooped on a Roloson rebound and finished the play for his fifth playoff goal, and a 3-2 advantage that the Capitals took into the locker room.
But in the final period the Lightning put on a demonstration of hockey determination and persistence as they dominated the final 20 minutes of play.
The numbers tell the story of the third period as Tampa Bay fired 15 shots on goal, equally their total for the first two periods, while holding the Capitals to only 5 shots on net. The Lightning produced 10 scoring chances to only 3 for Washington, blocked 7 Washington shots and held Alex Ovechkin to only 1 shot on net.
Along the way, they pounded two pucks past Neuvirth 24 seconds apart to grab a 4-3 lead which dogged defensive play made stand up. The first score, a patented Steven Stamkos blast from the high slot into the upper corner of the net was assisted by Victor Hedman. The winning goal came off Ryan Malone’s stick as he converted a centering pass from NateThompson. Adam Hall earned his third assist of the post-season on the goal.
Roloson again put on a virtuoso performance in the Lightning net, stopping 29 of 32 shots, while Lecavalier and Stamkos shared the lead in shots on goal with 4 apiece. Mattias Ohlund blocked a game-high five shots while Malone and Downie led both teams with five hits apiece.
In addition to putting the Capitals on the brink of elimination, the third period comeback seemed to send a message to the Washington locker room.
“They are uncanny when they want to get a goal,” Capital forward Mike Knuble said. “It’s like they just snap their fingers or hit a button. It’s like they flip a switch. I don’t know what it is but it leaves you flabbergasted.”
But Tampa Bay, going into game 4 tomorrow night, is taking nothing for granted.
“Washington is a good team,” St. Louis said. “It’s going to be hard to win four games, so we just have to reload for tomorrow.”
Tomorrow will be here soon enough, but at least for tonight, the win was sweet.
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.