WASHINGTON, DC — Having tied Game 2 of his team's Stanley Cup Playoff semifinal series with a clutch goal, and then watched that team lose in overtime on a self-destructive sequence, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin(notes) laid out the mission at hand as the action shifts to Tampa:
"We're going there, and we're going to win two games."
It wasn't a guarantee, it the reality of their surroundings. The Capitals have dropped the first two games of their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, losing 3-2 in overtime on Sunday night. An impressive showing against the Rangers in Round 1 has become a frustrating deficit in Round 2.
The ghosts of playoff disappointments past are haunting their power play, which is now 0-for-11. And even in a game where the Capitals dominated play, symbolized by a 37-23 shot advantage, defeat was served after one mistake in the extra session:
Defenseman Scott Hannan(notes) was the catalyst for the bad change that led to Vinny Lecavalier's game-winner. His shift lasted 33 seconds, which was his second-shortest of the game (the only shorter one was ended at 18 seconds because of a penalty).
"I was a little tired and I thought I could get off in time and obviously I couldn't. It was a bad play," said Hannan. "It was a bad change. I thought the puck was going in behind. You can't make mistakes like that. It will cost you in the playoffs."
That it did.
"It was a bad change, and at the same time the guys who came on didn't come on anywhere as quick as they should have," said Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau.
"I just went on the ice, and I saw Teddy Purcell was going to get that loose puck. I was just hoping he'd get it by that defenseman," said Lecavalier, who helped the Lightning overcome the losses of Simon Gagne(notes) and Pavel Kubina(notes) after Game 1 injuries.
"I tried to go high on [Neuvirth]. He got me last game: I tried to go between his legs and he's so good down low. If I tried to put it high, I thought I'd have a chance."
Lecavalier gave the Bolts the 1-0 lead with Ovechkin in the box on a high sticking call. It was vintage work from The Vinny and Marty Show: St. Louis confidently working the blue line on an umbrella power play, Lecavalier either feeding to the slot or firing on net from the right circle.
The Capitals knotted it at 14:52 of the second period on a goal set up by a line that wasn't out there when it was scored. Jason Arnott(notes), Jason Chimera(notes) and Eric Fehr(notes) pinned the Lightning's top line in its defensive zone for over a minute, forcing the Bolts into an awkward change when Marty St. Louis chose to bank the puck off the center ice boards rather than go deep. That led to a Nicklas Backstrom(notes) shot that trickled over Roloson and in on a Brooks Laich(notes) shot.
At 7:35 of the third, Teddy Purcell had a takeaway in back of the Capitals net. He dished to St. Louis in the corner to Neuvirth's right, who snapped a shot that went off of Mike Green's(notes) right skate and into a gaping net.
"Purcell did a great job hunting the puck. I saw Vinny back door and tried to pass it to Vinny," St. Louis said. "You throw the puck there. If it doesn't get through, there's a good chance it goes off something. Whenever you put the puck in the paint, good things happen."
The Captials tied the game with Neuvirth pulled and on a couple of miscues by the Lightning defense. Victor Hedman(notes), who otherwise had a strong game, couldn't clear the puck; the Capitals' Brooks Laich gained possession, dished in front and found Ovechkin without a Bolt body on him for the game-tying tally.
The Caps had a man advantage there, but it wasn't a power play; you can tell because they actually put the puck in the net.
"Look at the penalty killing tonight," said Lecavalier. "That's the difference right there. It was phenomenal."
Washington's power play cost them its series against the Montreal Canadiens last postseason, going 1-for-33. It's been as much a hindrance in this semifinal, unable to convert in a pair of closely played games and going 0-for-6 in Game 2. Some of the credit goes to the Bolts killers and Dwayne Roloson(notes), who made 12 shorthanded saves. But it's also the Capitals' inability to convert.
"We're tryin'. Tryin' different things. Tryin' to make things work. Obviously it's not," Boudreau said. "It's not like they're bad penalty killers. They stopped 35 out of 36 against Pittsburgh."
The Capitals played well in Game 2. Well enough to win. Yet there was Vinny Lecavalier, mobbed by his teammates, converting a chance he was given.
"They seem very determined," said Lecavalier. "They just weren't opportunists."