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Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Tampa Bay Lightning players are seen along the bench during a break in play in the third period against the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Tampa Bay Lightning players are seen along the bench during a break in play in the third period against the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published May 24, 2018
Updated May 24, 2018

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrating second period as it all slipped away.

"The puck was laying there, great move by Heddy to put the puck there," Gourde said after the Lightning was eliminated in a Game 7 loss. "I didn't know what happened. I just whiffed on it … if I score there, it's 1-1 at that point in the game. Obviously, it's frustrating. I'm trying to help my team win every night. Unfortunately, I didn't get the bounce there."

Victor Hedman had gotten past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and passed the puck between him and the goal. Gourde rushed the net, but couldn't put his stick on the puck, and the Lightning missed a chance at the momentum shift of a tying score.

"We had some unbelievable chances," Hedman said. "The puck just didn't go in."

Tampa Bay dominated early in the second period, everywhere but the scoreboard. Shot after shot missed just wide, went off the post, with loose pucks and rebounds bouncing tantalizingly in front of the crease, often just out of reach.

The Lightning had the first six shots of the period, but only Washington was able to bury its opportunities. When Dan Girardi couldn't bring down a dump pass and clear it, Washington's Andre Burakovsky — who hadn't scored in the entire playoffs — beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for a 2-0 lead. He would score again with 3:29 left in the second to put the game all but out of reach.

Tampa Bay didn't score in its final seven periods of the season — 159 minutes and 27 seconds without the NHL's top-scoring team managing a single goal — but the second period was where Washington was able to pull away and advance.

"I know from personal experience, to get this far, you need breaks to go your way," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the game. "We pressed and pressed and pressed. They got the breaks they needed. Over a series, they probably earned those breaks."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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