Tampa Bay Lightning faces crucial battle against Capitals in Game 3

(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning must find a way to turn things around against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a tremendous start to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After finish off the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in five games, the Lightning found their way to the Eastern Conference Final for the third time in four years. Unfortunately, this is where the trouble started for the Bolts.

Everyone here in the Bolts Nation expected to see the same fire and passion from the Lightning they witnessed when the Bolts came back to win four games in a row against the Bruins. Regrettably, the Lightning faithful would be grossly disappointed following the conclusion of Game 2 of the Conference Final.

The Lightning has shown very little urgency, been defensively unsound, and allowed minor mistakes to snowball into disappointing deficits in the first two games against the Washington Capitals. Tonight, the Lightning find themselves face-to-face with what will essentially to be a defining moment for the team.

The Bolts will make their way into the Capital One Arena in the Nation’s Capital to face off with captain Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. Should the Capitals keep momentum on their side and bring home another victory, the Lightning will find themselves on the brink of elimination.

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On the other hand, should the Lightning everyone here in the Bolts Nation has come to know and love decides to make an appearance tonight and the Bolts find a way to bring home their first victory of the series, we could be looking at a totally different series. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time this scenario has come to pass.

In the 2002-03 season, the Lightning and Capitals met in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The Washington Capitals outscored the Lightning 9-3 in the first two games of the series, putting the Lightning down two games to none and in a very disheartening spot. Here’s where things get interesting.

The Lightning then headed on the road to what was once called the MCI Center (now known as the Capital One Arena) in DC for Games 3 and 4. Former and soon-to-be Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier opened the scoring just 3:46 seconds into Game 3. From this point, there was no looking back for the Bolts.

The Bolts would go on to outscore the Capitals 4-3 in Game 3. The Lightning would go on to win the next three games in-a-row, which culminated with a 2-1 victory in Triple Overtime to advance to the next round. If the 2003 Lightning team could accomplish this feat, why can’t the current day team do the exact same?

Right now, the Lightning consists of the some of the most talented players in the entire National Hockey League. Nikita Kucherov spent almost the entire regular season leading the league in Points. Andrei Vasilevskiy is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Victor Hedman is a finalist for the Norris Trophy.

Do we see a pattern forming here? Of course, the Bolts will need to put in plenty of hard work if they want to achieve this lofty goal and claw their way out of the abnormally large hole they’ve dug for themselves. First and foremost, the Lightning absolutely must stay out of the penalty box.

Out of the teams remaining in the playoffs, the Washington Capitals lead the league in Power Play Percentage. In the 49 times the Caps have been blessed with a man advantage, they have scored 16 Power Play Goals for a Power Play Percentage of 32.6.

Meanwhile, of the teams remaining in the postseason, the Lightning is in fourth place on the Penalty Kill. As one can easily see, this scenario doesn’t bode well for the Bolts. Therefore, they will need to do everything within their power to avoid taking unnecessary penalties and opening the door for the Capitals.

There are many people here in the Bolts Nation who have given up on the Tampa Bay Lightning and resigned themselves to the “fact” the Lightning is out of the postseason and have already started looking towards the next season. We here at Bolts By The Bay are not members of this crowd.

Sure, things have been disappointing thus far against the Capitals. Yes, the Capitals have continued to outplay the Lightning in just about every way through the first two games of the series. These are both truths. What is not true is the series coming to an end already. There is still plenty of hockey left to play this series.

Next: Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin Collide In ECF

The puck is set to drop at 8:00 p.m. from the Capital One Arena in DC. As usual, you can catch all the action on the NBC Sports Network. Should you be looking for a more Lightning-centric broadcast, you can always check out Dave Mishkin and Phil Esposito make the call on 970WFLA or TBL Power Play on iHeartRadio.