WASHINGTON (AP) — Vincent Lecavalier did Alex Ovechkin one better. Now Lecavalier’s streaking Tampa Bay Lightning are halfway to eliminating Ovechkin’s top-seeded Washington Capitals.
Lecavalier scored his second goal of the game 6:19 into overtime, and the fifth-seeded Lightning beat the Capitals 3-2 Sunday night for a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Tampa Bay appeared headed for a much simpler victory, leading 2-1 in the third period, but Ovechkin forced the extra period by scoring with 67 seconds left in regulation.
Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves as the Lightning won their fifth consecutive game — and their fifth in a row on the road.
The series now shifts to Tampa for Game 3 on Tuesday, followed by Game 4 the next night.
On the winning goal, the Lightning caught the Capitals in the middle of a line change. Tampa Bay defenseman Randy Jones — playing in his first game this postseason because of an injury to Pavel Kubina in Game 1 — sent a long pass to Teddy Purcell off the boards. Purcell then slid the puck across the ice to Lecavalier, who flipped it over rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth to end the game.
Taking a page out of Ovechkin’s celebration playbook, Lecavalier leaped into the glass behind the net before being surrounded by teammates.
Martin St. Louis’ goal put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1 about 7½ minutes into the third period, before Ovechkin recorded his first point of the series. Brooks Laich scored for Washington in the second period.
Washington’s power play went 0 for 6 and is 0 for 11 in the series. Part of that was due to the Capitals’ own problems, but a lot of credit also must go to Roloson and the Lightning, who have been absolutely superb in penalty killing.
In this postseason, the Lightning have turned aside 45 of 46 short-handed situations.
Tampa Bay might be feeling pretty good about things, given that it can wrap up the series by winning twice at home. Then again, both teams know from recent experience that a two-game series deficit is hardly insurmountable.
Tampa Bay trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 in the first round before taking three games in a row to eliminate the Penguins. And it was just last season that the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals blew a 3-1 lead against the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens and were upset in seven games.
The key to Lightning-Capitals so far has been the performance of the teams’ power-play and penalty-killing units.
While Washington is struggling with the man-advantage — the Capitals might be wishing that penalties could be declined in the NHL — Tampa Bay has a power-play goal in each game.
It was Ovechkin, Washington’s captain, who was in the penalty box for high-sticking when Lecavalier, Tampa Bay’s captain, made it 1-0 with 58.8 seconds left in the first period. Lecavalier one-timed a slap shot, zooming the puck over the left shoulder of Neuvirth, who wound up with 20 saves.
The Capitals tied the game at 1-all about 15½ minutes into the second period on Laich’s first goal of these playoffs. And the score came, naturally, during 5-on-5 play.
Nicklas Backstrom brought the puck into the offensive zone and took a shot that went off Roloson’s chest. Laich batted the puck out of the air and it hopped past Roloson as Alexander Semin — who initially was credited with the goal, before a scoring change — waved his stick, too. The Capitals began celebrating, and Roloson gave Semin a shove as the Russian skated past.
The Capitals managed to build a 27-9 edge in shots through two periods, but this was a telling statistic: 12 of Washington’s shots to that point came on the power play, and none of those made it past Roloson.
In the third period, St. Louis made it 2-1 when he appeared to be trying to send a cross-crease pass to Lecavalier, but the puck clanged off Capitals defenseman Mike Green’s skate and caromed in.
NOTES: After not allowing a first-period goal in the five games of their first-round series against the New York Rangers, the Capitals have given up one in each game against the Lightning so far. … Capitals RW Mike Knuble returned to the lineup after missing the team’s previous three games with a suspected hand injury. He played Sunday on Ovechkin’s line. … The Lightning were without two players who got injured in Game 1: LW Simon Gagne and Kubina. Like Randy Jones, C Blair Jones played for the first time this postseason.