After a dismal showing in games one and two, at home no less, the Tampa Bay Lightning went on the road and found their game that had gone missing as they beat the Capitals in game three, stole game four, and then played a fantastic first period at home in game five to take a 3-2 series lead with a chance to wrap it up in Washington on Monday night,
An interesting stat I ran across this afternoon. The Capitals are 13-43 all-time in games after taking a 2-0 series lead. That is incredible.
So how have the Lightning gotten themselves back in the series after trailing 2-0 and being thoroughly outplayed the first two games?
It starts with a sense of urgency, desperation if you will, and the Lightning have played with that urgency the last three games. That first period Saturday night in game 5, was the best first period the Lightning have played this season. Cedric Paquette scoring 19 seconds into the first period and then a Ryan Callahan goal a few minutes later set the tone for the rest of the night.
There was not a lot of room on the ice for the Capitals to use their speed to create odd man chances as the Lightning defense was stellar, and the Bolts outshot the Capitals 13-4 to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Washington was on their heels and playing catch-up the rest of the game and could never overcome that quick start by the Lightning.
The Lightning plyed tight defense on the Ovechkin line. The grind line of Paquette, Callahan, and Kunitz shut down the top line of the Capitals, until late in the game when the Caps pulled Holtby and played 6 on 5 and Ovechkin put a rocket passed Vasilevskiy to make it 3-2. The defense has gotten better the last three games and that mindset has been key to shutting down and frustrating the Capitals.
The Lightning had to kill off the final 90 seconds of the 6-5 getting some help from Vasilevskiy with two outstanding saves.
The Lightning were also able to stay out of the penalty box and not let the Caps PP get going. In the two games in Washington the Caps PP was 0-7 thanks to some great saves by VasilevskIy. The Lightning PP has also gotten cranked up as the series has gone along and is now 6/15 in the series.
As the series shifts back to Washington for game 6, this will be the toughest game the Lightning has played all year. Washington will come out flying and the lightning will need to wether the storm. Vasilevskiy will again have to be very good in this game if the Lightning are going to advance. Vasilevskiy has been red hot stopping 100 of the last 106 shots he has faced.
The Capitals will get their chances, but if the lightning plays the way they have the last three games against the Caps, the Lightning will be Eastern Conference champions and looking forward to a date with Vegas in the Stanley Cup Finals.