PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinal; Capitals lead 2-1.
Tampa Bay snapped a prolonged losing streak in Washington, rejuvenating its Stanley Cup drive. But a win streak is what the Lightning really need to get new life.
The Lightning will look to even their best-of-seven series with the Capitals when the teams meet in a pivotal Game 4 at MCI Center.
“We don’t feel the pressure,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. “No matter what happens in this series, we’re not supposed to win it. So we’re just going to continue to play.”
Despite winning their first Southeast Division title in franchise history and grabbing home-ice advantage, the Lightning were outscored a combined 9-3 in losing the first two games of this series.
But the Lightning, who have never won a playoff round in their 11-year-history, bounced back Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime victory. Vincent Lecavalier seized the opportunity with his team enjoying a two-man advantage early in the extra session, scoring his second goal of the game.
“We thought if the penalties were going to even out, they would even out in the third period,” said Capitals defenseman Ken Klee, who joined Jaromir Jagr in the box after elbowing Dave Andreychuk in the head. “I don’t think anyone expects a 5-on-3 in overtime.”
Tampa Bay snapped an 11-game losing streak at the MCI Center, which spanned 4 1/2 years. The Lightning hadn’t won in Washington since Nov. 4, 1998, getting outscored 47-14 since then.
Hoping to energize what was a stagnant offense, Tortorella moved Martin St. Louis to the top line alongside Lecavalier and Vaclav Prospal. St. Louis responded with a goal and two assists. Prospal, who had one point over the first two games, scored a goal and added an assist.
“We couldn’t find an answer for them,” Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They were the difference. Let’s face it: Young kids, you get thrown together and you have success early on.”
Washington never held the lead but sent the game into overtime with a late goal by defenseman Brendan Witt. Dainius Zubrus, who had two assists in the first two games, scored twice for the Capitals after missing a first-period penalty shot.
Olaf Kolzig, who stopped 68 of 71 shots over the first two games, including a shutout in Game 1, stopped 24 shots.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lightning - 93 points; 3rd seed. Capitals - 92 points; 6th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Lecavalier and Prospal, 2 goals; St. Louis and Dan Boyle, 3 assists; St. Louis, 4 points; Fredrik Modin, 14 PIM. Capitals - five tied with 2 goals; Jagr and Sergei Gonchar, 3 assists; Jagr, 6 points; Trent Whitfield and Brian Sutherby, 10 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 8.3 percent (1 for 12). Penalty killing: 69.2 percent (9 for 13). Capitals - Power play: 30.8 percent (4 for 13). Penalty killing: 91.7 percent (11 for 12).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Capitals, 3-2. The Capitals won both home games in the series, and lost two of three at Tampa Bay. Jagr led Washington with four goals and seven points while St. Louis and Lecavalier had four points apiece for the Lightning.