The Washington Capitals have the talent to punish the Tampa Bay Lightning each time they go on the power play, and today they did precisely that. The Capitals emerged from a long slumber to score three goals on their first four power-play chances in a 6-3 victory at St. Pete Times Forum, taking a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven playoff series.
The Capitals scored as many power-play goals in Game 2 as they had in their previous 12 contests combined. Washington entered this game in a 3-for-42 drought, including an 0-for-3 performance in Game 1, but scored three times in the first 22 minutes, falling one goal shy of tying the franchise's playoff record. Jaromir Jagr, the focal point of the erratic first unit, was excellent, forcing Tampa Bay's penalty killers to chase him around while opening up space for others.
Coach Bruce Cassidy listened to suggestions from his players, and moved Kip Miller back to the point and Peter Bondra, the franchise leader with 12 playoff power-play goals, switched from his normal position on the blueline to one much closer to the net.
"We've said it all year: It's Jagr's power play," Cassidy said. "We talked about it a little bit [Friday] and this morning and that's what they wanted to do: They wanted to get Peter moving more, maybe away from the blueline into the high slot down low, and I'm all right with it. As long as it's five guys on the ice working together, I don't have a problem with it. . . . We've given them a bit of free rein, and at times this year it hasn't looked good, and other times it has, and tonight it literally won us a hockey game by them just using their creativity."
Jagr prefers a power play that is amenable to freelancing around the net and not predicated so much on shots from the point, which explains why Bondra produced far fewer power-play goals than usual this season. Today, both forwards were back in top form.
"You have to score goals, that's the bottom line," Jagr said. "The power play is good when you're scoring goals, no matter how you do it. If you don't score, you're a bad power play."
The Capitals' penalty killing, meantime, has negated all eight of Tampa Bay's power plays in the series. Washington is 40 for 42 on the penalty kill against the Lightning in seven games this season.
Back Against Wall
The Capitals have held a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series three times before, beating Ottawa in five games in 1998, and losing to Pittsburgh in six games in 1996 and in seven games in 1992. Washington swept the opening two games on the road in 1996. Tampa Bay has not won at MCI Center since Jan. 4, 1998, losing 11 straight games there. "We have to try and win two games up there," Tampa Bay captain Dave Andreychuk said. "Our backs are against the wall, but we've responded before." . . .
Forward Michael Nylander has scored in both games of this series after failing to score a goal in his first 18 career playoff games. . . . Bondra had nine shots on goal today; Jagr had seven. . . . Tampa Bay made one lineup change from Game 1, inserting enforcer Andre Roy and scratching Chris Dingman. Roy was benched after taking a bad penalty seven minutes in and is likely done for the series.