TAMPA — The words "Our Time" were projected onto the Amalie Arena ice before the players left the dressing room early Sunday evening. The reference being, of course, the Lightning was going to take care of business in its own building.
That did not happen.
The team that finished the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference and rolled past the Devils and Bruins in the first two rounds of the playoffs, finds itself in a precarious situation after a 6-2 loss to the Capitals in Game 2.
The series now shifts to Washington, D.C. for Games 3 and 4. The good news is the Capitals are 3-3 on home ice this postseason. The bad news is teams with a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup semifinals since 1974-75 are 39-2.
"They're a good team, and they're feeling it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the Capitals, who have scored 10 goals on Andrei Vasilevskiy in just five periods over the first two games.
"We're getting away from what has made us successful," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "When you're at home and you drop the first two, it's disappointing."
The Lightning was looking for that Game 2 bounce back it has enjoyed after opening a playoff series with a loss. It entered the game 5-0 in such situations under Cooper, including during Game 2 of the conference semifinals against the Bruins.
It appeared the Lightning was on its way to making it 6-0 when Brayden Point and Stamkos scored power-play goals in the first period. That helped the Lightning overcome a goal by Tom Wilson just 28 seconds in.
Columnist Tom Jones and staff writer Roger Mooney break down the Lightning’s 6-2 loss in Game 2 and Tampa Bay’s predicament heading to Washington.Posted by Tampa Bay Times - Sports on Sunday, May 13, 2018
The turning point, though, came early in the second when Devante Smith-Pelly took a pass from Alex Chiasson to finish off a 2-on-1 with only Mikhail Sergachev back. The goal came after the Lightning had a 4-on-1 advantage heading into the offensive zone only to turn the puck over.
The Capitals added two late goals, including a power-play goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov with three seconds left in the period for a 4-2 lead.
That goal was set up by a tripping penalty against Vasilevskiy when he caught Andre Burakovsky with his right skate as Burakovsky skated past the net.
It was similar to the last-second, power-play goal Vasilevskiy allowed off a faceoff at the end of the first period of Game 1.
The Lightning looks deflated, beaten, Tom Jones writes. It looks like a shell of itself. That's what the Capitals did to it. #TBLightning #GoBolts #ALLCAPS #TBLvsWSH @tb_times @tomwjones https://t.co/0LZitTUDMC— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) May 14, 2018
"For a team that's been used to making plays, we sure haven't made them in these two games," Cooper said.
The Lightning is allowing odd-man rushes, something it did not allow often in the first two rounds.
The Capitals are bottling up the Lightning offense, limiting the time and space the scorers have with the puck.
The Lightning has scored just one even-strength goal through two games.
"We're just playing tentative and a little bit slow," Cooper said. "We didn't get 113 points (in the regular season) playing that way. We didn't win the first two rounds playing that way."
But the Lightning is playing that way now.
What's more, Vasilevskiy is not the rock in the net, covering for teammates' mistakes.
It all adds up to the Capitals being two wins from the Stanley Cup final.
"We have so much more in us," Tampa Bay's Anton Stralman said. "We're just not there. Especially defensively. You can't win a playoff game allowing six goals."
The Lightning outshot the Caps 13-10 in the first 20 minutes. It was a much better effort than in Game 1, when the Lightning managed only two shots in the first period despite having the puck in the offensive zone for enough time to produce more.
Cooper said before the game that had to change. It did, and it began when Sergachev fired a shot from the blueline that Braden Holtby stopped with his left pad 1:50 into the game. A dozen Lightning players had shots on goal that period with J.T. Miller taking two.
Then came the second period.
And the collapse.
Now come a pair of must-win road games.
Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50