TAMPA — Another solid regular season sent down the drain by another postseason failure.
The Capitals thought this was the year they would finally get over the hump and win their first Stanley Cup, but they became the first No. 1 seed to be swept out of the first or second round of the playoffs since the current playoff format began in 1994.
"Not really much you can say," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're down in the dumps. I'm down in the dumps."
The Capitals overhauled their system this season from a wide-open team to one that relies on defense. Along the way, the Capitals, who have won four consecutive Southeast Division crowns, acquired veterans to provide leadership in hopes of finally breaking through in the playoffs after losing Game 7s at home each of the past three seasons.
Now one has to wonder if Boudreau, who is 17-20 in the playoffs, and GM George McPhee will lose their jobs and if the team will undergo massive changes.
"I hope not," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "This locker room is unbelievable. Everyone supports one another. I hope this team will be the same next year. … I don't know what to say."
GIVING CREDIT: The Capitals beat the Lightning four times in six regular-season games, including once in a shootout. In winning this Eastern Conference semifinal in a four-game sweep, was the Lightning just a flat-out better team?
"They just beat us in four straight, so I think they were," Boudreau said. "It wasn't by a big margin, but we're still done in four games, so I'd have to say they were better."
WHO ARE THOSE GUYS? The Capitals will have a long offseason to relive the sweep, and it won't be Tampa Bay's stars who keep popping up in their nightmares.
"I don't know if we got beat by (Marty) St. Louis and (Vinny) Lecavalier as much as the other guys," the Capitals' Mike Knuble said. "They were out of their minds."
Knuble was talking specifically about Sean Bergenheim, Steve Downie and Dominic Moore. Those three forwards combined for six goals and seven assists in the four games.
MISCELLANY: The Lightning once again played without LW Simon Gagne and D Pavel Kubina. Neither has played since leaving Friday's Game 1 with apparent head injuries. There is no timetable for their returns. … The Capitals were without D Mike Green, who suffered a lower-body injury in Tuesday's Game 3. ... The Lightning outscored the Capitals 6-2 during the third periods of the series.