Lightning look to even series vs. Caps
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
WASHINGTON -- With reports of their demise proven premature, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to even their Eastern Conference Final with the Washington Capitals when the teams meet in Game 4 on Thursday night.
With a win, the Lightning can regain the home-ice advantage -- or disadvantage, as the visiting team has won the first three games -- before the teams travel to Tampa Bay for Saturday's Game 5.
The Lightning climbed back into the series with Tuesday's 4-2 win, improving to 4-1 on the road in the 2018 playoffs.
Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point each had a goal and an assist, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves as Tampa Bay built a 3-0 lead and short-circuited Washington's rally.
"We haven't done anything yet, we haven't accomplished anything yet," Stamkos, who has five goals and four assists in a six-game point streak, told reporters on Wednesday. "We got ourselves back in the series by playing a lot more of a structured game and we're confident we can do that again."
In Game 3. the Lightning righted some of the wrongs that plagued them in Games 1 and 2, including scoring two even-strength goals -- after scoring a total of two in the first two games -- and winning the special teams battle, finishing 2-for-5 on the power play while Washington went 0-for-3.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper also opted to juggle his top three lines and was rewarded with additional offense without hurting his defense.
"Yeah, we tweaked our lines," Cooper told the team's website Wednesday. "Was that the recipe? It was the way we played. That was the recipe. ... We played better as a team."
Brett Connolly's goal pulled the Capitals within 3-1 and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored late as Washington fell to 3-4 at home in the playoffs.
Braden Holtby made 19 saves, allowing four goals for the first time in the postseason.
Now it's Washington's turn to respond.
"We weren't playing as sharp as we normally can," Capitals coach Barry Trotz told nhl.com. "We weren't executing the way we normally did in the last couple of games. We were just off a little bit, and you can't be off in this game to have success. We will be better next game."
Washington could get a boost if center Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed the last four games with an injured hand, returns. He has been skating with the team and participated in Wednesday's optional practice.
Backstrom had 21 goals and 50 assists in the regular season and has three goals and 10 assists in 11 playoff games.
"You can't replace a guy like him," Jay Beagle told the Washington Post. "He's one of our key leaders and one of our best players. He's a guy who makes this team click and makes us go. Obviously to get him back would be huge."
This is the fifth time since conference finals started in 1982 that the first three games were all won by the road team, according to STATS, Inc.
The 1995 series (New Jersey-Philadelphia) and the 2004 series (Calgary-San Jose) both had the road team win the first five games before the home team closed it out in Game 6. There has not been a best-of-five or best-of-seven playoff series in which the road team won every game.
Washington will look to end the visiting streak in this series.
"You have to have a short memory and get the rest, regroup and have fun, enjoy the game," Kuznetsov told nhl.com. "No one expected 4-0, right? We all know it's going to be a tough series. We just have to relax a little bit and stay positive."
Updated May 17, 2018