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Special teams failures took Capitals' teeth away in Game 3

16 May 2018

Of the 41 previous times a team lost the first two games in the conference finals, 39 went on to lose the series - including every team that lost its first two at home.

The Capitals come home to Capital One Arena for Game 3 on Tuesday night sporting a 2-0 lead over a Tampa Bay Lightning team that won the most games in the National Hockey League during the regular season. The Capitals are 3-0 without him, including Games 1 and 2 against the Lightning.

"I can't wait to go home and play the game", Alex Ovechkin told the Washington Post after Game 2. The Lightning's backbreaker goals were in the second period, especially the two in the first 3:37, but the long stretch where they kept Washington scoreless set the tone.

The first came courtesy of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos in the first period, 35 feet deep according to the box score, stationed at his usual power play perch near the left dot. Less than two minutes later, Victor Hedman made it 3-0 Lightning.

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Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington.

And as they have in other critical junctures of this postseason, the Lightning relied on their best players to rise to the occasion and rescue a series that had been firmly in their opponents' grasp.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said the Lightning's power-play goals did not necessarily loosen them up to improve on their even-strength chances, but the constant penalties interfered with what Washington wanted to do. But if Kucherov even received a phone call from the NHL Department of Player Safety, the conversation was little more than a "Hi, how are ya?" for there he was in the lineup on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had appeared rattled at times in the games on his home ice, made 36 saves Tuesday. "We were ready for it and nobody was going to give up ..." Brayden Point got the Lightning back ahead 4-1 into the second intermission on a goal assisted by Braydon Coburn and Tyler Johnson.

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"We've got the experience". "Any time you look on the screen, there's five guys and that just means you're playing as a group of five, and you're playing connected and playing with real good structure and responsibility". "If you can dominate the wall plays, you can usually have success and create odd-man rushes, and [we] do a good job of that".

And another Lightning goal!

They did. And if they can do it again, this series could be heading back to Tampa all tied up.

"A big thing for us, and I think it's worked I guess in the three games, is the team that really gets the lead is the team that's in the driver's seat", Cooper said.

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Backstrom has participated in morning skates with the Capitals, but has not taken line rushes or any time with their power-play units. But Washington's power play could not connect on its opportunities the way that Tampa Bay had.

Special teams failures took Capitals' teeth away in Game 3