WASHINGTON – As terrific a Game 2 as Vincent Lecavalier delivered—outperforming Alex Ovechkin by scoring twice, including the overtime winner—even the Tampa Bay Lightning’s captain knew where credit was due.
“You’ve got to look at the penalty killing. … That was the difference right there,” Lecavalier said. “We gave them a lot of power plays—we were a little bit undisciplined with our sticks—but our penalty killing was phenomenal.”
Yes, it was. So was Lecavalier. And now his streaking Lightning are halfway to eliminating Ovechkin’s top-seeded Washington Capitals. Lecavalier netted his second goal 6:19 into overtime, and the fifth-seeded Lightning beat the Capitals 3-2 Sunday night for a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Washington’s power play went 0-for-6 and is 0-for-11 in the series. The Lightning have turned aside 45-of-46 short-handed situations this post-season.
While the Capitals might be wishing that penalties could be declined in the NHL, the Lightning scored a power-play goal in each game at Washington.
“We didn’t capitalize on special teams,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, “and that was the big key.”
Said Ovechkin, who tied the game with 67 seconds left in regulation for his first point of the series: “We just have to go to the net and find the puck.”
Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves as the Lightning won their fifth consecutive game—and their fifth in a row on the road.
“It’s a great feeling to win those two games,” said forward Martin St. Louis, who put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1 in the third period, “but we haven’t done anything yet.”
The series shifts to Tampa for Game 3 on Tuesday, followed by Game 4 the next night.
“Well, the series is not over,” Ovechkin said. “We’re going there, and we’re going to win two games.
“It’s going to be hard, but right now in this situation, we have to win.”
Both teams know from recent experience that a two-game series deficit is hardly insurmountable.
Tampa Bay trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 in the first round before taking three games in a row to knock out the Penguins. And it was just last season that the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals blew a 3-1 lead against the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens and were upset in seven games. In 2009, the Capitals were in the exact situation they are now—down 0-2 after dropping two at home—before coming back to eliminate the New York Rangers.
“It’s first to four, and that’s the way we’ve got to look at it,” Capitals defenceman Scott Hannan said. “It’s not the way we wanted to start, but there’s a lot of games left.”
Echoed Brooks Laich, who scored Washington’s first goal: “We’re definitely not out of it. It’s a tough loss, but we’re going to regroup.”
Tampa Bay appeared headed for a much simpler victory Sunday, leading 2-1 thanks to a fluke goal about 7 1/2 minutes into the third period: St. Louis was trying to send a cross-crease pass to Lecavalier, but the puck clanged off Capitals defenceman Mike Green’s skate and caromed in.
“You take those,” St. Louis said.
With time running out, and the Capitals having pulled their goaltender for an extra skater, Laich passed to Jason Arnott, who sent the puck through a defenceman’s legs and in front of the net.
Two-time NHL MVP Ovechkin—who else?—was in the right spot at the right time and lofted a high shot past Roloson. As Ovechkin and his teammates celebrated, along with the red-clad sellout crowd, the momentum seemed to have moved.
“I felt very comfortable going into overtime,” Boudreau said.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher’s take?
“Through the course of these playoffs, what the players and this team have learned is to stay calm under pressure,” Boucher said. “That’s what the players did: reloaded. And I always believe it’s not about momentum; it’s about desperation.”
So maybe the Lightning were the more desperate team in the extra period, knowing how important it would be to steal another victory. In the end, they caught the Capitals in the middle of a line change; Hannan shouldered the blame afterward.
Tampa Bay defenceman Randy Jones—in his first game this post-season because of an injury to Pavel Kubina in Game 1—sent a long pass to Teddy Purcell off the boards. Purcell slid the puck across the ice to Lecavalier, who flipped it over rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Taking a page out of Ovechkin’s playbook, Lecavalier leaped into the glass behind the net before being surrounded by teammates.
It was Ovechkin who was in the penalty box for high-sticking when Lecavalier made it 1-0 with 58.8 seconds left in the first period by zooming a slap shot past Neuvirth, who wound up with 20 saves.
“We got two lucky wins here,” said Lecavalier, “and hopefully we can go home and push them back a little bit.”
NOTES: After not allowing a first-period goal in the five games of their first-round series, the Capitals have given up one in each game against the Lightning. … Capitals RW Mike Knuble played after missing three games with a suspected hand injury. … The Lightning were without two players who got injured in Game 1: LW Simon Gagne and Kubina. Like Randy Jones, C Blair Jones played for the first time this post-season.