Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning-Capitals: What we learned from Games 1 and 2

TAMPA — Bad news: The last time an NHL team won a conference final after trailing 2-0, the Lightning didn't exist. It's been that long.

Good news: The 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins rebounded to beat Boston in six games and went on to win the Stanley Cup. So it can happen.

Now about Games 1 and 2 … Here's what the Times coverage team learned from two dominant victories in Tampa.

So much for being satisfied Capitals

Tom Jones, columnist:  All this baloney about the Caps just being happy to beat Pittsburgh and make the conference final is just that: baloney.

The Caps look like a team on a mission. They look just like the Lightning looked in the first two rounds. They make the big plays at the right times. Their best players are playing like their best players. And the guys who aren't their best players are also playing like their best players.

And they don't even have one of their best players (injured forward Nicklas Backstrom. The Caps are a really good team playing at a very high level. Maybe at a level too high for the Lightning at the moment.

These Capitals are not those Capitals

Greg Auman, staff writer: The Capitals have looked nothing like their reputation as a team that fades in the playoffs. Aggressive, dominating hockey on the road, rendering the third periods nearly meaningless. For Tampa Bay to make this a series, it must now do the same thing, and that will require more than a change of venue.

Every time the Lightning has played in a conference final, the series has gone seven games. It would take a huge change to make that happen.

Not chanting, but I believe that they will win

Martin Fennelly, columnist: Feel the Blunder. I still think the Lightning will win this series. I am writing that from the rubber room at the clinic, where I am being observed.

Anyway, what I've learned is that the nothing is certain in the playoffs. The scoring depth, the elite goaltending, the stalwart defense that powered the Lightning through the Devils and past the Bruins has been nonexistent. The Capitals are killing the Lightning 5-on-5. The Lightning is not down and out, but you can see it from here based on the hunger Alex Ovechkin and Washington has displayed. The season is hanging by a thread. It's win Game 3 or pass the shovels. It's that simple.

The series is coming back to Tampa

Roger Mooney, staff writer: Time to panic if you're a Lightning fan? Not yet. Be concerned? Absolutely.

The Lightning said after Game 1 that it needed to play with more energy, play better defense, shoot more, stay within its structure. It did that Sunday for the first 20 minutes. Then it was all Caps. So, if that did not work in Game 2, you wonder what will in Game 3.

Going on the road? Maybe. Count on the Caps having one of their historical playoff collapses? Could happen. But this Caps team seems different. It's as if the Capitals learned from past mistakes. They withstood what the Lightning threw at them in the first period and dialed up their game.

The series will come back to Tampa. Whether it goes back to D.C. for Game 6 depends on whether the team that handled the Bruins with so much ease can find its way up there during these next two games.

Turnaround hinges on re-commitment to defense

Frank Pastor, digital sports editor: The Lightning doesn't look anything like itself right now, and the Capitals have everything to do with it. Washington has taken its game to a whole another level in the first two games that Tampa Bay just hasn't been able to reach. The breaks even went against the Capitals early in Game 2, and they found a way to overcome them. I don't know if the physical nature of the first two series is beginning to take its toll on the Lightning or if the Capitals are just better, but Washington is dominating 5-on-5 play, and Tampa Bay is running out of time to find a solution. I've seen the Lightning turn around series before (Detroit, 2015), so I'm not ready to give up on it just yet. But it's going to take a renewed commitment to defense and a compete level the team hasn't even approached to this point in the series.

More Lightning coverage

Phil Esposito on the Russians: 'Everyone's the same. They want the Cup'

All eyes on the Russian connection

How things look at the corner of Panic and Stricken

Contact Mike Sherman at [email protected]  Follow @mikesherman

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