TAMPA — Goaltender Michael Neuvirth has, on most nights in these playoffs, been the Washington Capitals’ steadiest player. In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, though, the rookie’s uneven performance contributed to a 4-3 defeat that has left his team in a three-games-to-none hole.
“I thought a couple of the goals he should have had,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But at the same time, when they got the lead, he kept us in the game.”
Boudreau didn’t specify which goals he took issue with, but they were likely Sean Bergenheim’s shot between the pads in the first period and Vincent Lecavalier’s redirection midway through the second period that knotted the game 2-2.
On Tuesday morning, Boudreau said he had not contemplated switching to Semyon Varlamov after the Capitals dropped the series’ first two games. But with his team facing elimination Wednesday, the question almost certainly will be asked again prior to Game 4 at St. Pete Times Forum.
It will be the third game in four nights, and Varlamov is 5-2-1 all-time against Tampa Bay with a 1.87 goals against average and .934 save percentage. Neuvirth, meanwhile, has yielded 10 goals (on 76 shots) in this series.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green was limited to one shift in the third period because of what Boudreau would only describe as a “lower body injury.”
The nature and extent of the injury was unclear, though Green was reportedly seen limping out of the arena favoring his left leg.
In all, Green was limited to 13 minutes 24 seconds of ice time, which is roughly half of how much he played in Games 1 and 2. . . .
Alex Ovechkin needed a handful of stitches to close a deep cut across the bridge of his nose. Ovechkin would only say that the injury occurred late in the third period. . . .
Brooks Laich also needed a dozen stitches to close a cut on the inside of his mouth after being struck with a puck early in the first period.
Boudreau said he did not believe the Lightning’s game-winning goal — scored off Ryan Malone’s skate — should have counted. The coach contended that Malone pushed Capitals defenseman John Carlson into Neuvirth.
“If you look at it, Malone is driving to the net and he pushes our player into our goaltender and he can’t kick out his right leg to make the save,” Boudreau said. “It’s a no goal, no penalty call. I don’t think it should have counted.” . . .
The Capitals believed they had taken a 1-0 lead 7:48 into the game when Mike Knuble pushed a rebound past Dwayne Roloson on the power play. But the goal was washed out because the Capitals had too many men on the ice.
The confusion on Washington’s bench began when Laich went for a line change after being struck in the face by an errant puck.
“Laich was playing defense and he came off the ice, and Semin went on and Carlson went on,” Boudreau said. “Carlson was supposed to go on. [Laich] got a puck in the mouth, 10 or 12 stitches.”
Boudreau did not deny that the Capitals had too many men, but he felt the goal should have counted because the puck crossed the line before the referee made a call.
“Still, if you look at that play, the goal was in the net before the referees made the call,” Boudreau added. “It wasn’t the referees who made the call, at all. The linesman told [referee] Dan O’Rourke that there were too many men on the ice.”
Carlson “Didn’t get involved,” Boudreau added. “During the season, one out of two refs will tell you, ‘Well, I want him to get involved in the play before I call it. The other one will say, ‘No, as soon as he gets on the ice I’m going to call it.’ The rule is ambiguous to the coaches.”