Stanley Cup Playoffs: Tampa Bay Lightning shut down the Capitals in DC

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Lightning strike in the third period to defeat the Washington Capitals 4-2 and send the series back to the Sunshine State tied at two.

The Tampa Bay Lightning definitely made up a lot of ground on Tuesday night when they transformed back into the Lightning team we have all come to know and love as they delivered a 4-2 defeat to the Washington Capitals and officially made this a series. Tonight, the Lightning was hard at work once again.

The Bolts made their way back into the Amalie Arena to take on the Capitals in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning definitely had momentum on their side heading into tonight’s contest. The question was whether or not the Bolts would be able to capitalize on their momentum and send the series back to Tampa on an even keel.

Regrettably, things didn’t get off to the start Lightning fans would’ve hoped. A huge cluster in front of the Lightning net and moderate pressure from the Capitals opened the door for defenseman Dmitry Orlov to pick up his second goal of the season to give the red team the early lead.

Thankfully, the Lightning wasn’t content with the Capitals heading into the first intermission at a deficit. Just over a minute after the goal from Orlov, the Lightning struck with a goal from forward Brayden Point. Point’s tying goal was his seventh of the season. The assists on the goal went to Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. The good news is, the Tampa Bay Lightning has made a habit of it. Shortly after the seven-minute mark in the period, the Lightning would get the first crack at the man advantage as Lars Eller was sent to the box for Holding against Nikita Kucherov.

The Lightning would use the opportunity to take the lead from the Capitals with a Power Play Goal from captain Steven Stamkos. Much like Point, Stamkos’ goal would serve as his seventh of the season. Point would pick up his second point of the game with an assist on the Stamkos goal. The secondary assist would go to forward J.T. Miller.

When it comes to Shots on Goal, the Capitals essentially controlled the narrative in the first period. The Caps outshot the Bolts 7-15 in the first 20 minutes of play. Uncharacteristic of their recent play, the Capitals also seemed to be controlling things in the Faceoff Circle.

If the Lightning wanted to pull out a win and bring the series back to Tampa tied at two apiece, they would have to seal up a couple of holes in their game and continue to apply pressure to the Caps. The biggest hole in the Lightning’s game during the first period was the amount of time they spent in the box.

The Bolts spent six minutes on the Penalty Kill in the final 10 minutes of the period. As most fans know by now, the Capitals are incredibly dangerous on the Power Play. Giving them unnecessary opportunities with the man advantage is a recipe for disaster.

The second period started off much the same way the first period started. A little past the five-minute mark in the second period, the Capitals would tie the game once again. This time, it would be forward Evgeny Kuznetsov who would beat Andrei Vasilevskiy and put the puck in the back of the net.

Once again, the Capitals would control the narrative when it came to the pace of the game. A big component of this was the way they were able to limit the Lightning’s time in the zone, and ultimately, the number of Shots on Goal the Bolts were able to make in the second.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

When the buzzer sounded to end the second period of play, the Capitals would outshoot the Lightning 6-14 for a two-period total of 13-29. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen; the Lightning has fewer shots in two periods than the Capitals did in each respective period.

Anyone who has followed Bolts By The Bay for any period of time knows, we have always been a proponent of quality over quantity. Unfortunately, when a team’s back is against the wall like it is at this point in the series, you have to give everything you have and pepper the opposing netminder with shots.

The third period of play would be a rather stressful one for Lightning fans. The Lightning had 20 minutes of hockey left to retake control of the game and solve the Braden Holtby conundrum. If the Bolts were going to accomplish this goal, they would have to be much more aggressive with the puck.

The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to make much more of an offensive push in the third period. Unfortunately, the offensive push would not convert into more Shots on Goal. Through the halfway point in the third, the Bolts would register a whole three Shots on Goal.

It took a little longer than anyone here in the Bolts Nation would’ve liked, but the Lightning’s offensive aggression finally produced exactly what the Lightning needed. The Capitals managed to kill the penalty to Lars Eller, who was sent to the box for Hooking against Alex Killorn.

Ironically enough, after the conclusion of the penalty, it would be Killorn who would fight for the puck in front of the net and beat Braden Holtby to seize the lead from the Capitals once again. This left a little over eight minutes for the Lightning to hold onto the lead and achieve their goal of evening up the series.

The Capitals would seriously push back in the final minutes of the period. Caps Head Coach Barry Trotz elected to pull Holtby with a little less than three minutes left in the period. Unfortunately for the Capitals, this would backfire for them.

There was literally two seconds left on the clock when Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli would hit the back of the empty net to secure the “insurance goal” for the Bolts. The referee would drop the puck but before anyone could make anything of it, the buzzer would sound to end the game.

2. 19. Final. 4. 23

The Capitals may have controlled the narrative in Games 1 and 2 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, but the Lightning proved to be the dominant force at the Capital One Arena in DC. The Lightning is now faced with a new challenge. The Bolts will have to find a way to win at home if they want to seize control of the series.

Obviously, both teams will be making their way to the Bolts Nation tonight/tomorrow. Then, it is back to business once again on Saturday night. Saturday’s game will be a little different than every other game in the series. Instead of an 8:00 p.m. start time, the game is set to kick off at 7:15 p.m. Also, instead of being on NBC Sports, the game will be televised on NBC.

The Lightning will have to continue to play the way they did over the course of Games 3 and 4 if they want to push the envelope and make the Capitals work for every inch. This will mean more aggression from the offense, a tighter defense, and (for the love of the Hockey Gods) staying out of the box.

Next: Steven Stamkos Takes Puck To Face During Morning Skate

The Bolts have proved to everyone they are not willing to go quietly. The Boys in Blue have been down more than once but the one thing they haven’t been thus far is out. The Eastern Conference Final has been one treacherous rollercoaster ride for Lightning fans, but those of us here in the Bolts Nation will never stop being the Thunder for our Tampa Bay Lightning.