Lightning (46-25-11, 103 Points, 5th East) at Capitals (48-23-11, 107 Points, 1st East)
Eastern Conference Semifinals:Series tied 0-0.
Regular Season Series: Washington took the first two meetings of the regular season, scoring six goals in each, before the Lightning evened the season series with consecutive victories, both by way of shutouts. The Capitals won each of the final two meetings of the regular campaign, including one in a shootout to conclude the regular season series.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay is playing in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 postseason when it swept the Montreal Canadiens in four straight games before advancing and eventually winning the Stanley Cup. On Wednesday, it became just the 24th team in NHL history to fight back from a three-games-to-one series deficit by defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games, allowing it to advance into tonight’s Game 1 contest.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will open up the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals in Washington, where it will play each of the first two games beginning tonight. The series then shifts to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4. The Lightning have won three straight games and come into tonight riding a high wave of momentum after clawing back from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round to defeat the Penguins and arrive at tonight’s game. Dwayne Roloson was superb in the team’s Game 7 win on Wednesday night, stopping all 36 shots faced to become the oldest goaltender in NHL history to record a shutout in the playoffs. Forward Sean Bergenheim had the game’s only goal, but it was enough as the Bolts fought off elimination for the third straight game. Tampa Bay’s penalty killing unit was tremendous throughout the entire series, allowing just one opposing power-play goal on 35 attempts.
CAPITALS – Washington will host each of the first two games of the series at home, where it had 25 wins to match the total of the Lightning for the most home wins in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals come into tonight much more rested, as they clinched their first-round series on Saturday with a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers to take the series in five games. Washington, who was hardly contested by the Rangers throughout the entire series, has yet to lose on home ice during the playoffs and defeated New York in just five games, marking just the second time in Washington franchise history that has happened.
Who’s Hot: Sean Bergenheim has a four-game point streak with three goals in that span and Dominic Moore has picked up an assist in three straight games as well for the Lightning. Teddy Purcell also has five points in his past four games. Washington has had significant contributions from Mike Green, who had at least a point in each of the five games of the opening round series versus New York, and Alex Ovechkin who had six points in all but one game during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – None. CAPITALS – Mike Knuble (hand), Tom Poti (groin) and Dennis Wideman (leg).
Notable Quotable: “They’re an incredible team and I think they’re the best team in the conference. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses that we can attack, so it’s going to be a real tough series and it’s going to be a real grind.” – Guy Boucher, on scouting the Capitals.