I can’t be any happier with the play of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the top-seeded Washington Capitals. The two teams have played two hard-fought games in Washington, and Tampa Bay escaped with two victories. The series now shifts to Tampa Bay for two more games that could potentially end the best-of-seven series if Washington fails to win one. And the work hasn’t gotten any easier for the Bolts since they lost their forward Simon Gagne early in Game 1 with a head injury after receiving a clean hit from Caps’ defenseman Scott Hannan.
Tampa Bay has done a great job containing Caps’ Alexander Ovechkin, who scored his first goal of the series late in the third period of Game 2. Head coach Bruce Boudreau pulled his rookie goalie, Michael Neuvirth, with about 1:45 to play, and Ovechkin went top-shelf to tie the game at 2-2. If the scoreboard didn’t signify the importance of Ovechkin’s game-tying goal then his celebration did.
Tampa Bay’s captain, Vincent Lecavalier, came through when it mattered most for his team. He buried his second goal of the game in OT to win. Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis scored all three of the Bolts’ goals in Game 2. These two stars have combined for six points through the first two games of the series, adding to their 14 points tallied against Pittsburgh in round 1, and it does not seem like they plan on slowing down.
If you recall my series preview from last week (http://bit.ly/kKLEy7) I mentioned that the Capitals are going to have to avoid the penalty box because of the high-level of intelligence the Lightning have on the ice. The Lightning have capitalized on two power plays against Washington, and the Capitals have yet to bury a power-play goal. This will continue to be key for each team as the series progresses.
The Capitals have fired 18 more shots on goal than the Bolts, yet Lightning netminder Dwayne Roloson has outperformed his opponent, Michael Neuvirth. As the guys phrased it on Versus, Roloson has been playing like “it’s just another day at the office” for the 41-year-old veteran, compared to Neuvirth, who is just a rookie and he has not received the most help from his teammates.
Game 3 is a must-win for the Capitals, but if Lacavalier and St. Louis continue to score, Roloson continues to stand on his head, Tampa Bay continues to outperform Washington on the power play, and Ovechkin continues to be contained, then the Bolts may end this series before anyone may have expected.
Last week I predicted Tampa Bay would knock the top-seeded Capitals out in seven games. I’m still sticking with that pick, but I would not be surprised or disappointed if they finish the job before Game 7. For the Bolts’ sake, this series should not go seven games, otherwise, the momentum will most likely be in favor of the Capitals.
History will be made.