Guy Boucher might struggle to convince his team that they’re the underdogs after tonight.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals on the strength of their red-hot veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, a few lucky bounces and outstanding play by their two long-time stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2 (OT); Lightning lead series 2-0
For the first two periods, the Capitals out-shot the Lightning but Tampa Bay still managed to build leads. Despite a 11-6 shot margin in the first period, Lecavalier scored on a Lightning power play to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The Caps were most dominant in the second period, hammering 16 shots on Roloson and allowing only three shots on their own goalie Michal Neuvirth. Roloson continued his recent hot streak by only allowing a Brooks Laich rebound tally.
The Lightning woke up in the third period, out-shooting the Capitals 11-5 as a St. Louis pass bounced off Mike Green’s skate and into Washington’s net for a 2-1 Tampa lead. It really wasn’t a great night for Green. Along with that bad moment, Green took two penalties. One was bad luck (he received a penalty for roughing even though it was a clean hit) and one was bad decision-making (an ill-advised elbow on Steven Stamkos).
It wasn’t a great day for officials, either, as they seemingly nailed both teams with dubious penalties while also letting some rather egregious infractions go unnoticed. Jeremy Roenick provided an amusing rant on the subject.
Some felt that this the Capitals would wave a white flag, but that ignores the consistent stream of magic featured in the 2011 playoffs.
More highs and lows for the Caps
Alex Ovechkin answered the call, scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs with Washington’s net empty. Even if his team ends up on the wrong end of another series upset, Ovechkin has been a force once again in the playoffs.
It seemed like this team’s series of baggage-shedding moments would continue as the Capitals rode a surge of momentum in overtime, but it was ultimately not to be.
Scott Hannan and his teammates were caught on a bad change on that Lecavalier game winner. Randy Jones made a heads-up breakout pass to Teddy Purcell, who sent a nice pass to a wide open Lecavalier, who took the time to settle down the puck and put it over a sprawling Neuvirth.
To some, this was an unlucky break, but the Capitals dodged a bullet shortly before that when Green was caught deep in Tampa Bay’s zone but Steve Downie couldn’t finish a 2-on-1 chance. Washington dominated much of the game, but mistakes and bad bounces did them in once again.
The outlook for both teams
The Lightning are on an amazing run right now, winning five games in a row and five out of their six road games in the playoffs so far. Maybe it hasn’t always been pretty, but their big-name scorers came up big. Lecavalier was huge in Game 2, Stamkos scored a timely winner in Game 1 and St. Louis has been outstanding game-in and game-out.
Of course, they wouldn’t have gotten here without Roloson’s all-world, age-defying work in net. He leads all starting goalies with six wins and an outstanding 94.7 save percentage. Last season, Jaroslav Halak solved both the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Will Rolo duplicate those results?
Meanwhile, the Capitals will face one of their biggest tests yet. It seems like they are doing what they can to break through their playoff struggles, but if this team buckles now, then every critic will be emboldened. There might be some who think that Bruce Boudreau should bench Neuvirth for Semyon Varlamov, but the biggest worries revolve around what they’re going to do about the opposing goalie.
On the bright side, Washington came back to win a series after following behind 2-0 against the New York Rangers in 2009, so they at least now it isn’t over yet.