Tampa Bay Lightning must play best game of the series in Game 6

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

The Tampa Bay Lightning holds their destiny in their hands as they are one win away from playing in the Stanley Cup Final as they enter Game 6 against the Washington Capitals.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has fought long and hard to get to where they are right now and if the Bolts can stay on track, they could very well be on the brink of taking the next step in their journey. Everything hinges on how they perform tonight in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals.

There was quite a bit of unrest here in the Bolts Nation when the Lightning fell two games to one in the series. It seemed the Capitals were living their “Cinderella Story” and had boarded the express elevator all the way to the top. Once the series moved to DC, the Lightning was determined to prove they weren’t out just yet.

The Lightning captured wins in Games 3 and 4 in the Nation’s Capital. Now, the series would return to the Sunshine State where the Bolts would need to find a way to overcome the challenge in front of them in their own building. Thankfully, this is exactly what the Bolts did on Saturday evening.

After the Lightning defeated the Capitals 3-2 in Game 5, the series was headed back to the Capital One Arena in DC. This is where the Bolts Nation currently finds themselves. The anticipation has reached a boiling point and fans anxiously await puck drop from all corners of the Bolts Nation.

The one thing which must remain true is the Lightning can ill afford to look past the Capitals and onto the Stanley Cup Final. There is still a lot of work to be done if the Bolts want to return to the big game and play for the chance to hold Lord Stanley’s Cup high above their heads.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said it best when it comes to focusing on tonight’s encounter with the Capitals.

“We expect our best game of the series and the best game of their season,” Hedman said. “We’ve got to match that and play our game for 60 minutes.”

Consistency is going to be a huge factor in tonight’s Game 6 encounter. The Capitals are the kind of team who like to take a mile when given a mere inch; especially when they are on the Power Play. The Lightning needs to set the tone early and maintain pressure on the Caps for an entire 60 minutes of hockey.

Speaking of the Capitals Power Play, another key to a Lightning victory tonight will be staying out of the penalty box. Unfortunately, given the officials who will be calling the game tonight, the Lightning will have an extraordinarily hard time with this particular task.

Whereas the referees in Saturday night’s game didn’t seem to want to make a single call, referees like Dan O’Halloran have seemingly favored everyone who is not the Tampa Bay Lightning over the last couple of seasons. One could easily assume he will keep the Bolts on their toes tonight.

The bottom line here is the Lightning can ill-afford to make simple mistakes like the Too Many Men on the Ice penalty which cost the Lightning a goal in Game 1 of the series; which ironically enough, led to a goal almost immediately following the penalty by Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.

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The Capitals have their backs against the wall at this point. This makes them a desperate team playing for their lives. You can bet your bottom dollar they are going to do everything within their power to stay alive and force the series back to Tampa for Game 7.

If the Lightning wants to avoid this particular scenario, they are going to have to completely control the narrative by striking first, being consistent, and constantly bringing the fight to the Capitals doorstep. The Bolts have proven over the last three games they are capable of achieving this goal. Now, it’s all about the execution.

The puck is set to drop at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight from the Capital One Arena in DC. Television coverage has moved from NBC back to NBC Sports for Game 6. Fans can also tune into 970WFLA or the TBL Power Play on iHeartRadio to listen to Dave Mishkin and Phil Esposito make the call.

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There is a lot on the line tonight for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. One team is desperate to stay alive and the other is looking to close the series out and advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Which team will get their wish? We’ll find out in a matter of hours.