Tampa Bay's 4-3 win over Washington last night continued the trend of the team scoring first going on to win. It happened for the Capitals in the first two games on the road and last night Tampa Bay struck first -- and last -- in overtime.
It could be a trend unlikely to end soon. Washington is a much better defensive team with the lead, more relaxed and at ease with its system, and the youthful Lightning plays with much more confidence when ahead. The team to score first has a strong chance of holding on for the win; the Lightning lost three one-goal leads last night but still won.
"In this game [tonight], we have to make sure we get the lead because everybody can see it is probably the most important thing to get a lead in the game," said Washington winger Jaromir Jagr, who had two assists and has six points in the series. "They play differently with the lead, they're young kids and they can skate and they were flying."
The Capitals led for nearly 100 of the first 120 minutes of this series, but fell behind less than four minutes into last night's game and never led.
Keeping It Positive
A core of the Capitals have been through odd playoff games before, with multiple-overtime losses, blown penalty shots in overtime and heartbreaking comebacks. The Capitals have lost 2-0 and 3-1 series leads and have a checkered playoff history, but the players are trying not to think about that after losing last night while trying to kill a five-on-three power play early in overtime.
"This is a different season," winger Peter Bondra said. "Every game is different and you've got to earn your luck. That's maybe what Tampa did tonight, and like we did down in Tampa. We just have to be ready and work hard and good things can happen." . . .
The Capitals were not thrilled about having to play Games 3 and 4 of this series on back-to-back nights at MCI Center and it might not bode well now. Tampa Bay is a much younger team and the Capitals generally need more time to rest and do not fare well on the second of back-to-back games.
"There's really no disadvantage for them," Washington Coach Bruce Cassidy said before Game 3. "It will probably help them a little bit. I don't think it hinders us much, but if you're looking for an edge I would think that's where they have it. . . . Being a younger team, I guess you've got to give them the edge."
Cassidy believes the team that wins Game 3 takes a distinct advantage into Game 4. The Capitals will have little time to make adjustments or changes on the ice and recovery time -- physically and emotionally -- is short. The teams should be well rested for a fifth game, which will take place Friday night in Tampa Bay.