Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning-Capitals: What could change in Game 3 beyond the venue

WASHINGTON, D.C.— From the frying pan to Ovi Land. Or something like that.

After dropping the first two games of this Eastern Conference final at home, the Lightning hit the road, needing to win at least one of two games at Alex Ovechkin's rink here just to keep the series alive and get it back to Tampa Bay.

Not exactly how the Lightning drew it up before the series started.

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"Obviously, we're not very happy with the way the first two games went,'' Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi said. "But it's the first to four, not the first to two.''

That's what players always say when they lose the first two games. And that's what Lightning players were saying after Tampa Bay was blasted by a combined score of 10-4.

When the best thing you can say is that you've only lost two instead of four then you know you're in a bad shape. And make no mistake, the Lightning is in bad shape.

The Lightning has been so thoroughly dominated that it's hard to imagine it winning four of the next five games. But it doesn't have to win four games at the moment. It just has to win one.

"We're not looking too far ahead,'' Girardi said.

That's the smart approach.

Can the Lightning do it? Can it still win this series?

There's still reason to believe. In fact, there are a lot of reasons to believe. Let us count the ways.

*I can see the Lightning playing much, much better.

"We're doing some things in this series that we just haven't done in the playoffs,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

He's right. The point being the Lightning is too good to continue playing so poorly. It's better than it has shown. What has gone wrong?

"It's hard to explain,'' Cooper said. "Maybe if we could, we wouldn't be down 0-2. It's quick. It goes fast.''

But players who collected 113 points in the regular season haven't suddenly forgotten how to play hockey. Cooper said they weren't depressed after Game 2. They were angry. Expect a better performance going forward.

*I can see the change of venue, from Tampa Bay to Washington, actually helping the Lightning. It's a chance to hit the reset button and get back to playing the way it eliminated the Devils and Bruins each in five games.

"Over the last month we've played pretty darn well to get ourselves to the final four,'' Cooper said.

*I can see the Lightning calming down because it is so loaded with veterans.

"The one thing is emotions are so high and so low,'' Cooper said. "When things were going to so well for us, one of the big things was, 'Hey, don't jump on that cloud nine.' And I thought we did a great job with that. So now … don't feel sorry for ourselves. There is a reason we're here. So I'm not too concerned about that. We've just go to stay the course.''

*I can see the Lightning taking comfort in the fact that in the first round of these playoffs, the Capitals lost the first two games at home to Columbus before rallying to win the series.

"It can change in a heartbeat,'' Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We've seen it ourselves and we lived it.''

The Lightning hopes to live it.

"They've proven it is possible,'' Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "That's what is so fun with hockey. Things can swing from one way to the other. We've got the team to rally around this and put these two games behind us and move forward. … Obviously, we're pushed against the wall a little bit, but we're a team known for rallying from behind. We're just going to have to that again.''

Hedman is right. So I can see the Lightning coming back again because it has come back in the past. Maybe not from 2-0, but it has won plenty of postseason games when its season was in jeopardy.

"We're here for a reason,'' Hedman said. "There's no panic. Obviously we're not happy with losing two games on home ice. But we've got the experience. … Guys have been through this.''

*I can see the Capitals blowing this. After all, it's what the Capitals do. They're known for their playoff futility. I can totally see them exhaling, thinking this series is over.

So one can see a lot of reason to believe Tampa Bay can come back in this series.

If you're looking through Lightning-colored glasses, that is.

More from Tom Jones

Lightning-Capitals: It's not over, but it sure feels like it

Time … time is not always on NHL teams' side

Enough with the bellyaching about Lightning's dress code

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones

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