NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-15-18 Lightning at Capitals

Lightning plant the seeds of belief in Game Three.

Eastern Conference Final

TB-4
WSH-2

Washington Leads the Series 2-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 38 shots for the victory. He made key situational saves when required and looked like a rock in the net. That's a fantastic response after Game Two's debacle. Washington may well regret letting Andrei climb into this series in this game.

First Period
13:53 TB Stamkos (6), (Hedman, Point)(PP)

Second Period
1:50 TB Kucherov (7), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)
3:37 TB Hedman (1), (Kucherov, Palat)
10:31 WSH Connolly (4), (Stephenson, Niskanen)
16:03 TB Point (6), (Johnson, Coburn)

Third Period
16:58 WSH Kuznetsov (9), (Oshie, Eller)

Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

After two games of charging stubbornly into the teeth of Washington's 1-1-3 trap (it helps when you're not immediately chasing the game by surrendering the first goal), the Lightning finally wised up tonight and managed the puck much better within the 10 feet around each blueline to limit odd man rushes and speed rushes against and take a possession advantage through the first 40 minutes of this game. Washington may have gotten more shots on the shot board (especially in the Third Period when score effects took hold) but the Lightning had the puck more and in dangerous positions in the Washington zone more and they absolutely deserved the win tonight. Helping create that advantage was a series of tweaks along the top three lines that included moving Palat onto the Stamkos line, moving Gourde onto the Point line, and moving Miller onto the Cirelli line. With the exception of some scary defensive zone issues that still seem to crop up with the Stamkos line, it all worked with the Paquette line still doing fantastic work against the Ovechkin line. So, the Lightning threw in some wrinkles, found a formula, and now have a foothold in this series.

I kind of expect Washington to put Backstrom in for Game Four knowing that the winner of Game Four will be the odds-on favorite to win the series. If the Lightning can steal it, I think they're in the cat bird seat while shrinking the series to a three game series where they have the home ice advantage. It's going to take a colossal effort to get it done, though. Washington will understand the gravity of the moment and know full well that dropping Game Four brings all the demons of playoff failures past to the forefront. They're going to play urgent. The Lightning have to match their intensity, their resolve, and their focus. If they do, I believe the Lightning have the depth and quality to pull this out and get the series level.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:12. He was also 50% on 8 draws. With Miller and Killorn as linemates, his line takes on a heavier and more checking minded role than with Gourde on his wing. What you like is Cirelli has the versatility to play both styles.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.