2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Semifinals Game 2 Recap
Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 2 - Tampa Bay 3, Washington 2 (OT) – Lightning lead series, 2-0
The Washington Capitals aren’t quite dead in the second round of the NHL playoffs, but it’s also quite true that they have virtually no margin for error the rest of the way.
The top seed in the Eastern Conference now finds itself in the same position faced by the Boston Bruins two weeks ago: The Caps fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night at the Verizon Center in the nation’s capital, in a game that ended before another Washington, D.C. event you might have heard something about by now. The Capitals have lost the first two games on home ice against the fifth-seeded Bolts and must now find a way to win two straight games on the road in Florida. That’s the grim calculus a team faces when it can’t even split in its home building.
If Washington merely splits the next two tilts in the Sunshine State, it will face a 3-1 series deficit and will have to win three straight games against the surging Lightning, who – ironically enough – overcame a 3-1 series deficit to escape their own first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Given the way Dwayne Roloson is playing in net for coach Guy Boucher’s Tampa Bay team, it’s hard to see how Washington will be able to outfox him three straight times.
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It is surprising that Washington is down two games in this series, especially since the Caps looked so solid and in control against the New York Rangers in the first round. Washington seemed to have turned the corner from a psychological standpoint in beating a tough goaltender, New York’s Henrik Lundqvist. Washington’s difference in that series against the Rangers was its defense, which has improved by leaps and bounds from last season. In this series against Tampa Bay, the Caps’ defense really hasn’t been all that bad, but just the same, the top seed’s power play has been too awful to ignore.
The key to this Tampa Bay win – and to Washington’s enduring playoff woes – was the Lightning’s penalty kill. The Bolts snuffed out all six of the Capitals’ power plays, pushing Washington’s tally to an astonishing 0-for-11 in the series. If Washington could have lit the lamp on just one power play, this game would have been different, but the Caps just couldn’t crack Roloson in the Tampa Bay net. The 41-year-old, who lifted Edmonton to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, is playing at that same elevated level once again. Roloson is seeing the puck incredibly well and making first-rate reactions. The only times Washington scored were when the Caps crashed the net and punched the puck in from close distances – once on a Brooks Laich rebound in the second period, and once on a quick poke of the stick from Alex Ovechkin with just 1:07 left in regulation time, with Tampa Bay holding a 2-1 lead. Washington just wasn’t able to convert on its power play opportunities, and so the Lightning were able to remain a half-step ahead of the Caps for most of the evening. Though tied by Ovechkin’s clutch goal in the waning moments of the third period, the Bolts calmly regrouped and delivered the dagger 6:19 into the extra period, as Martin St. Louis scored his second goal of the game by beating Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Unless the Caps can score on the power play, they’re not going to do what Boston did against Montreal in the first round: win four of five games after dropping the first two at home. The top seed in the East still has life, but that life is ebbing on a plane flight to Florida.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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