Quick-striking Lightning on verge of Stanley Cup Final berth

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You can’t spot a team a 3-0 lead and expect to win in the playoffs.

And while the Washington Capitals tried desperately to not fall victim to their own undoing earlier in the game, they simply ran out of time in a 3-2 loss on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning now lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 as the series shifts back to D.C. for Game 6 on Monday. Tampa is 7-0 all-time in Washington in the playoffs and has now won three straight in the series after falling behind 0-2.

In the first period and into the second, the Capitals appeared to be the same old disappointing playoff team — they just delayed their arrival this season for an extra round.

[PHT’s Three Stars: Vasilevskiy, Callahan lead Lightning in Game 5]

This does look like vintage Capitals collapse, no?

Giving their opponents a 3-0 lead in just over 20 minutes, including allowing goals at 19 seconds of the first period (Cedric Paquette) and 33 seconds of the second period (Ryan Callahan), isn’t a winning formula.

Nor is your superstar getting exactly zero shots on goal for the first 58 minutes of the game.

Sure, Alex Ovechkin hit the bar earlier in the third period, and once he did get shooting, he found twine on his second shot of the game with 1:36 left and the net empty, but it was all too late in the end.

Tampa is now a team on the verge of a berth in the Stanley Cup Final and the Capitals on the brink of their yearly disappointing exit from the postseason.

A silver lining: Evgeny Kuznetsov keeps producing. But you’re not winning a conference final riding on the back of one player, as Washington is figuring out.

The urgency displayed in the third period from the Caps would be better used spread out over all three periods.

But perhaps most concerning for the Capitals is how Tampa found their stride 5-on-5.

They didn’t manage to win the puck possession battle (as per usual in this series) but they did have a nearly 3-to-1 edge on high-danger scoring chances for at 15-6.

All three of their goals came at 5-on-5 and they didn’t have to rely on their power play to get their offense rolling.

That will be interesting to watch in Game 6. Giving the Lightning a man-advantage was a death sentence. But if they’re scoring 5-on-5 as well, Washington is going to be in a world of hurt.

This isn’t helping either:

MORE:
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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Paquette sparks quick-start Lightning in Game 5

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It took the Tampa Bay Lightning all of 19 seconds to get themselves into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals.

Yes, the Lightning scored on their first shot on goal as Cedric Paquette took advantage of a neutral-zone giveaway and then some questionable defending by the Capitals in response (and a nifty play by Ryan Callahan).

Tampa has been plagued by slow starts in this series, so getting a goal within the first thirty seconds of the game couldn’t have been scripted much better.

Ondrej Palat scored later in the period to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Both of Tampa’s goals also came 5-on-5, which hasn’t exactly been their strong suit in the Eastern final.

Neither team has won at home in this series, but Tampa took two big steps in the right direction in Game 5.

• Stream here
Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals’ Burakovsky will be Game 5 scratch
Lightning survive barrage to even series with Capitals
• Baseball team to wear Washington Capitals-inspired jerseys (Photos)
Capitals confident in ability to continue road advantage vs. Lightning
Lightning power play, Capitals penalty kill will make or break series

MORE:
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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Lightning, Golden Knights put opponents on the brink

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Friday’s results

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Boston Bruins 3 OT (Tampa leads series 3-1): Nikita Kucherov scored his first goal of the series, Steven Stamkos scored his first even-strength goal in 21 games and Dan Girardi provided the heroics in overtime as the Lightning pushed the Bruins to the brink of playoff elimination with their win. Boston’s top line contributed all three goals, but it wasn’t enough on the night. Oh, and Brad Marchand licked a fellow player again.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, San Jose Sharks 3 (Vegas leads series 3-2): It all looked good around the midway point of the third period. Vegas owned a 4-0 lead and were heading to an easy win when the Sharks attacked. San Jose brought the game to 4-3 in just over six minutes to make the game oh-so-interesting, at least until an empty net goal by Jonathan Marchessault ended the comeback attempt. Alex Tuch provided two goals, including the game-winner.

Three stars

Alex Tuch, Golden Knights: Tuch had two goals on four shots for the Golden Knights, including an important — and very pretty — a third-period goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Steven Stamkos, Lightning: Stamkos’ third-period goal was not only a very important goal (it tied the game and forced overtime, where the Lightning won), it was his first even-strength marker in 21 games. Stamkos has been quiet in the playoffs while the team’s second line has provided a lot of firepower, so perhaps the goal will spark more out of the sniper going forward.

Patrice Bergeron, Bruins: Sure, the Bruins lost, but it wasn’t for lack of trying from Bergeron. The Selke finalist tied the game in the second period and then scored the go-ahead goal shorthanded in the third period. Bergeron had seven shots on goal and won 73 percent of the faceoffs he took.

Highlights

Stamkos beauty:

Tuch’s with a deft redirection:

Glove save of the night:

Fleury sillyness:

Factoids

Saturday’s action

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET (NBC) — series tied 2-2

Winnipeg Jets vs. Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) — series tied 2-2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Lightning back in first, Varlamov hurt, Ducks gain ground

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Players of the Night:

Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay Lightning: Paquette scored twice and added an assist as the Lightning thumped the New York Rangers 7-3 on Friday. Paquette had five shots on goal and the Lightning threw 50 at Ondrej Pavelec to regain first place in the Atlantic Division. Tampa matched its regular-season record for points with 108.

Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche: The duo (but mostly Varlamov) combined for the first combined shutout in Avs history on Friday. Varlamov made 30 saves in 53:31 before he was injured in a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Tomas Jurco. Bernier finished the game, making three more saves to complete the blanking.

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks: Double R scored the OT winner to give the Ducks a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings, putting the Ducks into the first wildcard in the Western Conference, one point back of L.A. The Ducks have a game in-hand on their California counterparts.

Highlights of the Night:

Domingue’d

Hello, Andrighetto:

MacKinnon saves:

Juke and jive:

Rakell’s OT winner was special:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Hurricanes 4, Capitals 1

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 4

Lightning 7, Rangers 3

Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 0

Ducks 3, King 2 (OT)

Golden Knights 4, Blues 3 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Cedric Paquette to have date with player safety department

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Cedric Paquette will have to try to explain his actions to the NHL’s player safety department on Thursday.

Paquette is having a hearing to determine his reprimand after hitting Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug from behind in the second period of a 3-2 win for the Bruins over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

Krug wasn’t injured and stayed in the game, despite taking a moment to get back on his skates.

Krug would score what became the game-winning goal later in the period.

Paquette was assessed a two-minute minor for boarding on the play. He has not been suspended in the past.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck