Tampa Bay Sports Day

NHL: Tampa Lightning Fall Behind 2-0 in Eastern Conference Final

TAMPA —Behind five unanswered goals, the Washington Capitals posted a 6-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to take a 2-0 lead in the NHL Eastern Conference final.

“Give them credit, once that first shot gets through it doesn’t seem like we’re getting that second or third chance we would like. I mean we’re getting a little bit of zone time. Either we’re passing when we should shoot, or shoot when we are passing. But, ultimately, we’re turning the puck over too much, something we didn’t do in the first two rounds. When you do that, it’s hard to generate anything because you got guys going one way all of a sudden they’re coming back at you,” noted Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper.

For the second-consecutive game, Washington opened scoring in the contest, Tom Wilson deflecting Matt Niskanen’s shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy just :28 seconds into the game to put the Capitals up 1-0. Brayden Point leveled the score 1-1 on a power play at 7:08 of the first period. Point cleaned up a blocked shot in the slot for his fifth goal of the 2018 playoffs and first goal of the conference final.

Steven Stamkos gave the Lightning their first lead in the Eastern Conference Final after scoring a power-play goal on a left circle one-timer at 10:22 of the first period. Stamkos’ goal was his fifth of the postseason and second of the Eastern Conference Final. Stamkos has tallied a goal in two-straight games.

Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each posted multi-point efforts. Washington won the first two games of a best-of-seven series on the road for the third time in franchise history.

Ovechkin joined Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele as the second player to post eight multi-point games in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, contributing to the increase in offense – with goals per game at 6.0 through 70 GP – that has seen at least six goals scored in every game this round (20 GF in 3 GP).

“One thing about Ovi (Ovechkin) is you can’t allow him to have the puck in situations where he can shoot it clean, and last night is a perfect example. If you just give him a two on one, and if you’re going to give a guy of his talent that much time and space to put a puck in the net, he’s going to do it,” added Cooper.

At 19 points apiece, Ovechkin and Kuznetsov sit two points shy of matching the Capitals franchise record for points in a single postseason, established by Ovechkin in 2009. The only other Capitals’ player with 10+ goals in one playoff year is John Druce in 1990.

Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, who last month was named a Norris Trophy finalist for the second consecutive season, extended his point streak to seven contests to establish a Lightning playoff record for the longest such run in franchise history.

“We’ve got the team and we’re here for a reason. We’re fully capable of adjusting our game plan and adjusting the mistakes we’ve made. We can’t change what happened in the past few days. We’re just looking forward to tomorrow,” Hedman said.

He eclipsed the previous benchmark set by Martin St. Louis during the 2004 postseason. Hedman is the second defenseman in as many postseasons to record a point streak of at least seven games. The last defenseman to post a point streak longer than seven games was Larry Murphy in 1995 with Pittsburgh.

“You just have to regroup, and that’s it, and figure out why things haven’t gone your way and fix those things. And I know we can do that,” Cooper said of going 0-2. “We’re doing some things in the series that we just didn’t do in the Playoffs, and partially some of that is — attribute that to Washington’s play, but a lot of it’s our play, too, and I know our guys, we can fix that.”

Vasilevskiy stopped 31-of-37 shots to fall to 12-9 for his playoff career.

PLAYOFF NOTES: The Capitals hold an all-time series record of 0-2 when winning Games 1 and 2 as visitors, losing in six games to the Penguins (1996) and Lightning (2003). Overall, NHL clubs are 71-20 in 91 all-time best-of-seven series when taking a 2-0 lead on the road. The Capitals earned their League-leading seventh road win of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs to match a club record set during the 1998 postseason, when the team went 7-3 on the road in reaching the Stanley Cup Final. This marks the first time since 2014 that a Conference Finals series has not been tied after Game 2. In 2014, the New York Rangers took a 2-0 series lead (also on the road) against the Montreal Canadiens and eventually won in six games. In the conference era (since 1974-75), teams that hold a 2-0 series lead in the Conference Finals/Semifinals own an all-time series record of 39-2. The only two instances of a team winning a Conference Finals/Semifinals series in which they lost the first two games came in 1984, when the New York Islanders rallied past the Canadiens in six games, and 1991, when the Pittsburgh Penguins won four straight to defeat the Boston Bruins.

NHL NOTEBOOK:  Nicola Bruna of Montreal and Matthew Grenier of Quebec City are headed to the 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship Finals after claiming the top two spots in the Canadian Regional Finals, which premiered Sunday on NHL.com and Twitch.tv/NHL. Bruna, the winner, and Grenier, the runner up, joined Erik Tammenpää and Arttu Mustila, both of Finland, on the roster for the World Finals in Las Vegas June 19. The two remaining spots for the inaugural tournament will be secured via the U.S. Regional Finals on May 20.