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Tampa Bay Lightning beats Washington Capitals 4-3 in Game 3 of East semis, leads series 3-0

TAMPA — Sean Bergenheim liked the sound of the Lightning locker room Tuesday night.

There was little to indicate the team had just earned a 4-3 victory over the Capitals in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

There was no hooting or hollering despite a dramatic third-period comeback in which goals in 24 seconds from Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone overcame a 3-2 deficit and sent the sellout crowd of 20,613 at the St. Pete Times Forum into delirium.

"Because this is far from over," Bergenheim said.

"We were happy, but after a few minutes we were already back to that fact that we have a game (today). Everybody has done that, from the faces and the reactions I see here."

With a three games to none lead over the No. 1 seed in the East, the Lightning can sweep the best-of-seven series with a win tonight. But center Nate Thompson preferred to talk about a "cushion."

Only three teams — the 1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders and 2010 Flyers — have overcome 3-0 deficits to win a series.

Coach Guy Boucher even toned that down.

"Boston was up 3-0 (to Philadelphia last year) and they lost, and they were a very good team," he said, "so it's going to be very difficult to get that fourth one. It's our job to make sure we're focused and not at all emotional about the end result."

Still, for the first time, the Lightning — which also got goals from Bergenheim and Vinny Lecavalier, and 29 saves from Dwayne Roloson — snatched a game from Washington. It was outshot for the 10th straight time, 32-30, but had a 15-5 advantage in the third period after a second in which the Capitals had a 14-7 advantage and scored three times for a 3-2 lead.

Washington's last goal, from Alex Ovechkin, came on a five-on-three power play. It was the Capitals' first power-play goal in 13 tries and snapped a Lightning streak of 32 straight kills.

But Stamkos, after a smart pinch by defenseman Victor Hedman to keep the puck in the offensive zone, scored 5:23 into the third period with a wrist shot so quick, it must have created a sonic boom. Malone scored at 5:47 when a centering pass from Thompson banked in off his left leg. They are the two quickest goals in the team's playoff history.

"We'll take 24 seconds or 19 minutes and whatever it takes," Malone said. "We know if we stick to our game plan and our structure, we create chances. We believe sooner or later it's going to come."

"They are uncanny when they want to get a goal," Washington right wing Mike Knuble said of the Lightning. "It's like they just snap their fingers or hit a button. They just dial it up. You can see it. It's like they flip a switch. It's just like they think, 'We know we're going to score.' I don't know what it is; it leaves you flabbergasted."

The Capitals were frustrated by Knuble's first-period goal that was disallowed because too many men were on the ice, and that they could not get a shot off in the game's final 1:47 after pulling goalie Michal Neuvirth.

Thompson, Bergenheim, Eric Brewer, Mattias Ohlund and Adam Hall were on the ice for the final minute, and Thompson and Hall combined to win 3 of 5 defensive zone faceoffs.

"Just keep everything to the outside and block shots and get the puck down the ice," Thompson said of the team's mind-set. "It's desperation time."

After which it was time to celebrate. "A one-minute celebration," Boucher said.

Tampa Bay Lightning beats Washington Capitals 4-3 in Game 3 of East semis, leads series 3-0 05/03/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 12:03pm]

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