Home > NHL > NHL Quick Hits: Game Three – Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL Quick Hits: Game Three – Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning are just one win away from closing the book on the Washington Capitals season as they were able to come away with a 4-3 victory Tuesday night, taking a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. In front of a sold out crowd at home, the Lightning were able to score two goals within 24 seconds of each other, one of them being the game winner by Ryan Malone.

Give Credit or Lightning Shall Strike You: Could anyone have predicted what has occurred in this series so far? The Lightning took the first two games on the road and all but sealed the deal against the Capitals on Tuesday night. The same team that was written off after they gave away their Southeast Division title in the final week of the season have looked like different group of players, playing with more heart than any team still competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

When they were called underdogs in the quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and were down 3-1 in the series, the “unthinkable” happened. They came back to force a game seven and eliminated the Penguins on the road. The same team that hasn’t been given enough recognition throughout the entire season has won six straight playoff games and is one game away from sweeping the Eastern Conference’s “elite team”. So the question is still there; when will this team be given its dues? Maybe when they hoist the Stanley Cup above their heads, perhaps then they will be recognized as a team that everyone overlooked.

Capitals Powerplay Woes Continue: One major reason why the Capitals have struggled all throughout this series against the Lightning is due to the failure of their powerplay. After the first three games, the Capitals are a horrendous 1-for-16 with the man advantage, their only goal coming in Tuesday night’s game on a TWO-man advantage. The powerplay has looked dreadful, but the performance in game three was a train wreck. Even with the goal on the score sheet, nothing looked right on the ice. Players were missing shots taken at the net by at least six feet, there were several instances of wrong positioning on the point and when they did have chances, a team with born-bred scorers, did everything but score. They had to rely on a 5-on-3 to score and only did so after Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson left a juicy rebound for Alexander Ovechkin to put in. If this team has any chance of making a comeback, they better score a goal on every man advantage that is given to them.

Steven “The Real Deal” Stamkos: With the league surrounding superstars like Ovechkin and the Penguins Sidney Crosby a lot of attention is not given to others players who are on the same, if not, a higher level of talent. I can say that the Steven Stamkos of the Lightning, will be the best player in the league within a year or two. He excels at every aspect of the game and tonight was just another example. Several times throughout the game, Stamkos has turned a play that looked dead from the start into a scoring opportunity. He crashes the net, shows his physicality and illustrates an extreme level of talent that few can.

Tonight, with one flick of the wrist he sent a blistering shot from in between the circles past Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth before anyone could even blink. Not only did he tie the game, but he provided a spark for his team and the lead would be theirs just seconds later. Stamkos is a diamond in the rough when it comes to talent in the NHL and with 45 goals and 46 assists in the regular season, he is no surprise. This Lightning team is led by many veterans including Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Malone, but Stamkos demonstrates just how important youth can be on a team that is on the verge of a championship.

Capital Collapse: At one point in the third period, the Capitals looked set to make their mark in the series, up two goals with less than a period remaining and the momentum was fully fledged in their favor. Twenty-four seconds later, the Lightning struck twice to take a one goal lead. First, on a goal by Stamkos and then after a frenzy in front of the net, Malone was able to put the puck past Neuvirth. It just goes to show you how every second of the game makes a difference and in less than half a minute, the Capitals went from being comeback contenders to scheduling their tee-times at the local country club.

Game Three Top Performers: Tampa Bay Lightning / Stamkos – 1 goal, 4 shots on net, 17:40 time on ice

Washington Capitals / Ovechkin – 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots on net, 24:27 time on ice

What’s Next: Game four, the second back-to-back game will take place on Wednesday night in Tampa Bay. With a win, the Lightning look to return to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since their Stanley Cup run in 2004. Like last season, the Capitals are in a must win situation and will have to come back from three games down no matter what. I wouldn’t say that it is impossible, the Philadelphia Flyers were able to accomplish the improbable feat last season against the Boston Bruins. But this Capitals team is not functioning on any cylinders and they are going to have to do some real soul searching if they want to even pull out one game in this series instead of getting completely embarrassed.

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