Lightning Lean on Their Stars to Strike Back Against the Capitals

Lester Mason
May 17, 2018

On Wednesday, Trotz said he wouldn't have any reservations about playing Backstrom if he is still limited in that area.

But it was the work of the penalty kill - a unit that went 3-for-3 and held Washington without a power-play goal for only the third time this postseason - that stemmed the Caps' momentum in Game 3 and might have been the key to Tampa Bay earning its first victory in the Eastern Conference Final.

On the first power-play goal, Victor Hedman, working the point, swung the puck to Stamkos in his wheelhouse, and the captain delivered with an unstoppable, rocket of a shot to the upper far post. "We obviously want to back that up on the ice". "We just have to relax a little bit and stay positive". His three goals and five points are the most on the team.

"When (Stamkos) shoots it like that, he's done it for so long, scored so many goals from there, I think it's hard to cover him when you have Kuch on the other side doing the same thing for the most part", Miller said. "You can't be off in this game to have success".

For the first half of the season, Stamkos and had made a compelling argument that the Hart Trophy should be shared this year.

But as the year wore on and the Lightning qualified for the playoffs with nearly a month remaining in the season, Stamkos' production began to fade.

Backstrom had 21 goals and 50 assists in the regular season and has three goals and 10 assists in 11 playoff games.

It wasn't an issue, of course, because the team cruised past the Devils and Bruins in five games each.

Brett Connolly's goal pulled the Capitals within 3-1 and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored late as Washington fell to 3-4 at home in the playoffs. The Capitals are eager for their top center to return to the lineup - an injured right hand has sidelined him for the past four games - but they don't want to rush him, either.

It's understandable if people are starting to get nervous, given the playoff history of the Capitals and the fact the Lightning has never lost in six playoff games at Washington. When you need a big play, a big performance, he's usually one of the guys that will step up.

In Game 2 the territorial advantage switched, but the game was largely even despite the score, and Game 3 was dead even. The Lightning captain has built a career on his ability to slap a moving puck.

"When you have a really good team like they do across the way, if you're going to give them open ice to make their plays, they're going to kill you", Cooper said. "You look at last night, (defenceman Matt) Niskanen was over there and (goaltender Braden) Holtby was set and (Stamkos) still found a way".

Both Kucherov and Stamkos thrive on pre-shot movement to score their goals, especially on the man advantage, so getting those passes through Washington's defenders is extremely important for them in this series. "I think confidence is a big thing and it's going well right now".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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