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

Girardi, Lightning push Bruins to brink of elimination

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have one foot in the Eastern Conference Final.

Dan Girardi scored 3:18 into overtime to give Tampa a 3-1 series lead after taking their second straight at TD Garden.

Girardi’s goal capped off a third-period comeback with his winner. Steven Stamkos scored his first goal at even strength in 21 games to erase the Bruins’ 3-2 lead.

There was some controversey on Stamkos’ goal as it appeared Nikita Kucherov tripped up Charlie McAvoy prior to the Stamkos one-timer that tied the game 3-3.

Brad Marchand, who wasn’t without his own controversy on the night after throwing a low hit on Ryan Callahan before licking him in a scuffled after, wasn’t none too pleased with the non-call.

The Bruins’ top line got their band back together in the game, but not before Tampa took a two-goal lead in the first 10 minutes of the first period.

The Bruins found themselves trailing early and spending time killing off penalties as Brayden Point and Kucherov put the visitors head. Kucherov’s goal was his first of the series.

Patrice Bergeron‘s line with David Pastrnak and Marchand took over from there, regaining the mojo that had worked so well for them in Game 1 — their only win of the series thus far.

Pastrnak pulled the Bruins one back in the first and Bergeron netted the next two as the Bruins took their first lead in the third period.

The series shifts back to Tampa for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon and the Lightning now has a chance to close the series out at home.


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

Brad Marchand enrages Lightning with lick, low bridge (Video)

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Oh, boy. Here we go again.

If you thought a request from the NHL and scorn from many around the league would stop Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand from unleashing another tongue lashing an opponent, you’d be wrong.

Marchand’s tongue was the center of attention once again on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With less than 90 seconds left in the second period, Marchand leaned in for the kill on Lightning forward Ryan Callahan and swiped his face with his tongue.

Marchand is in nobody’s good books, and the questionable hit (low bridge) on Callahan moments earlier already had the Lightning in an uproar.

As you’ll remember, Marchand went in for the tongue kill in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs when he licked Leo Komarov.

In an in-game interview following the hit, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told NBC’s Pierre McGuire that Marchand’s low hit is the type that “ends careers.”

In Game 3, Marchand threw a similar hit on Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi.

The Bruins were leading the Lightning 3-2 in the third period, with Marchand notching his second assist on the Patrice Bergeron‘s go-ahead goal.


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

Ladd wants to re-sign before season starts

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If captain Andrew Ladd enters the season without a new contract, it will naturally raise questions that he would like to avoid.

“It would be nicer to get it done before the year … especially in a market like this, there are questions every day, so it’d be nice to move past it at some point,” Ladd said, per TSN. “I’ve been around long enough that I know sometimes these things take time. I think both parties are interested in getting something done. All the things add up.”

The 29-year-old forward has one season remaining on his five-year, $22 million contract, but his next deal is expected to be more lucrative. After all, he’s coming off of a campaign where he scored 24 goals and a career-high 62 points.

The Free Press estimated back in July that Ladd would ultimately get “north of $6 million” annually on a contract “worth in the range of $40 million.”

That would be in the same ballpark as the extensions for Brandon Dubinsky (six-year, $35.1 million) and Ryan Callahan (six-year, $34.8 million). All three of those players are fairly close in age and are noteworthy for being able to contribute offensively while maintaining a physical presence. Callahan is also a former captain.

Of course time is running out for Ladd and the Jets to agree to terms before the campaign begins and if they fail to do so, Ladd’s public eagerness to put this behind him will only add fuel to the speculation as to what the sticking point is. Which will, of course, lead to those daily questions.