WASHINGTON – Much was made of the time and energy expended by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals when they made a midseason switch to a more defensive-oriented style.
Coach Bruce Boudreau was decidedly disappointed to see his top-seeded team abandon that new strategy and revert to the go-go, think-about-scoring play of the past during a loss to the fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
When the teams meet again in Washington for Game 2 on Sunday, Boudreau wants the Capitals to go back to the game plan.
“We have to be a little more patient,” Boudreau said while his team practiced Saturday, a day after losing 4-2 to Tampa Bay.
The Capitals led 2-1 with four minutes left in the second period. But the Lightning scored twice before that period ended, and added an empty-netter in the game’s last minute.
“We got caught up when it was 2-1,” Boudreau said.
He added that instead of “realizing we can win games 2-1, we tried to win it 5-1, and when that happens, it usually backfires on you. … They got caught up in thinking this was going to be easy and thinking, ‘We want to make it 3-1 and 4-1’ rather than just batten down the hatches.”
The Lightning love to get a lead and then drop into a 1-3-1 formation that can stifle the opposition. They limited Ovechkin to two shots and zero points Friday night.
They also shut down the Capitals’ power play, much as they did during a first-round elimination of the Pittsburgh Penguins. So far, Tampa Bay’s penalty killers have a success rate of 39-of-40 during the post-season.
That’s helped the Lightning win four games in a row, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Penguins. And after dropping Game 1 at Pittsburgh in the opening round, Tampa Bay has won its last four road games.
Still, as well as his club is playing, Lightning coach Guy Boucher is doing everything he can to keep the pressure on the favoured Capitals, who have won four straight Southeast Division titles but haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs in that span.
“They have so much firepower—and they use it,” Boucher said Saturday. “Some teams have firepower, and they don’t use it as much. Their team is looking as sharp as I’ve ever seen them play. They were very good last year, but I think they’re a lot more complete now. They’re just as dangerous.
“We’re expecting them to be outstanding next game,” he added.
Boucher wouldn’t say whether two players who left Friday’s game with injuries—left winger Simon Gagne and defenceman Pavel Kubina—will be on the ice Sunday, describing the status of both as day to day.
He did say that if Kubina can’t play in Game 2, Randy Jones would take his minutes.
Jones hasn’t appeared in this post-season, but Boucher described him as “ready; he knows exactly what to do.”
The Capitals could also be without a key defenceman, John Carlson, who played less than a minute in the third period Friday because an undisclosed injury.
“I think there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll play,” Boudreau said, “but I’m not 100 per cent certain.”
AP freelance writer Rich Dubroff contributed to this report.