The list of things the Tampa Bay Lightning needed to do to avoid falling behind 0-3 in the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals was getting long.
As PHT’s James O’Brien pointed out on Tuesday, improved performances from Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in terms of puck possession would’ve been a start.
Nikita Kucherov finding the back of the net for the first time in the series would also help.
And perhaps most importantly, getting an outing from Andrei Vasilevskiy that was reminiscent of those that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist this year.
Stamkos stepped up his game with a 60% CF%, Vasilevskiy was solid, and the Lightning checked enough of the boxes elsewhere to get themselves back into the series, defeating the Capitals 4-2 in Game 3.
Hedman’s 5-on-5 game still needs some work, but No. 77 scored his first goal of the playoffs and added two helpers so no one will be complaining too much.
Kucherov got his first of the series, scoring on a one-timer on the power play.
[PHT’s Three Stars: Lightning power play stays hot in Game 3 win]
And Vasilevskiy looked much less fatigued than he did in the first two games, where he allowed 10 goals in five periods of play and never eclipsed a .850 save percentage.
Vasilevskiy had never lost three straight playoff games, and he didn’t start a new trend on Tuesday, steering aside 35-of-37 shots he faced.
He had to be particularly good late in the game after Evgeny Kuznetsov (no surprise) found paydirt from a dirty angle for his sixth point in the series with Washington’s net empty.
Tampa benefited from a three-goal outburst in the second period. Kucherov netted on the power play, Hedman found a fairly wide-open net to shoot at, and Brayden Point provided a late marker to give the Bolts a 4-1 edge through 40 minutes.
Washington didn’t have much of the magic they found in abundance in Tampa, although their possession numbers showed they controlled the majority of the shot share.
One now has to wonder how the Caps will manage Backstrom’s injury going forward.
There’s an argument that they could have given him the night off on Tuesday to promote further healing with the team holding a healthy 2-0 lead series lead. We’ll see what happens for Game 4 Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
The Capitals certainly aren’t panicking at 2-1, but they need to be wary of their own ugly history when winning the first two games on the road (they’re 0-2 in a series where they do that). If Backstrom, one of the league’s best set-up men, can go and be effective, he can only help.
A side note: Home-ice advantage is a myth.
The Caps are 7-1 on the road in the playoffs and 3-4 at Capital One Arena. Tampa, meanwhile, improved to 4-1 away from AMALIE Arena.
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck