Lightning-Capitals Game 3: Must Win for Tampa to Make a Series

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Matthew Jordan

Monday, May 14, 2018 7:10 PM UTC

Monday, May. 14, 2018 7:10 PM UTC

The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a position few teams have rallied from: down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s fair to say the Bolts’ season is on the line Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.

Game 4: Tampa Bay (0-2) at Washington (2-0)Free NHL Pick: Over (& Lightning)Best Line Offered: Intertops

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It’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night from Washington, D.C., with an 8 p.m. ET puck drop on the NBC Sports Network.

The Tampa Bay Lightning worked all season to earn home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. So much for that. The Washington Capitals went to Tampa and won the first two games by a combined score of 10-4. Now this statistic is staring the Lightning in the face: In the conference era (since 1974-75), teams that hold a 2-0 series lead in the conference finals/semifinals own an all-time series record of 39-2.

However, the Lightning can take some solace from their opponents. The Capitals lost their first two games at home (both in overtime) to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 but rebounded to win the next four and the series. Frankly, it might a good thing for Tampa that the next two are in the nation’s capital. Washington has three home losses in this postseason but has won seven on the road, matching a club record set during the 1998 postseason, when the team reached the Stanley Cup Finals. That has been the Capitals’ only trip to the Finals.

On the updated BetOnline series line, Washington is now -370 and Tampa +310. The Caps are +175 to win the Cup, just behind the Winnipeg Jets (+150 – that number could change if the Jets lost Game 2 of their series Monday night vs. Vegas). Tampa is the +600 long shot. Don’t give up hope yet, Lightning fans. Believe it or not, the Capitals hold an all-time series record of 0-2 when winning Games 1 and 2 as visitors, losing in six games to the Penguins in 1996 and to the Lightning in 2003. Overall, NHL clubs are 71-20 in 91 all-time best-of-seven series when taking a 2-0 lead on the road.

During the regular season, the Lightning split in Washington, winning 3-1 on Nov. 24 and losing 4-2 on Feb. 20.

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Vasilevskiy Not Playing Great

There is a myriad of reasons why the Lightning are down 2-0, but No. 1 has to be shaky play by netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Vezina Trophy finalist. Vasilevskiy has been beaten for 10 goals on 62 shots in this series, four in Game 1 and six in Game 2. He also was hit with a questionable penalty call in Game 2 with 10 seconds left in the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored seven seconds later to make it 4-2 and all but end the game.

Kuznetsov was the No. 1 star with that goal and two assists. Lars Eller had the same scoring line – he’s only playing heavy minutes with Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup due to a hand injury. It’s not expected that Backstrom will return for Game 3.

Alex Ovechkin continued his stellar playoffs with a goal and an assist. He has 10 goals and nine assists in the postseason. He and Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele each reached eight multi-point efforts in 14 games played. It’s only the sixth time in NHL history that at least two players have recorded at least eight multi-point games within their first 14 games in a postseason. It last happened in 2009 (Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin). Ovi is the first player in Capitals history to score 10+ goals in a single postseason multiple times as he had 11 in 2009.

On the bright side, Tampa Bay was 2-for-4 on the man advantage itself and has scored a power-play goal in seven straight games, one shy of the club's postseason record set in 2004 when it won the franchise’s only Stanley Cup. Coach John Cooper said that Vasilevskiy is his “guy” and will start Game 3. The Russian might have a short leash, though.

  • Over is 20-7-2 in the last 29 meetings.
  • Over is 19-9-3 in Capitals’ last 31 games following a win.
  • Over is 12-4-2 in Lightning’s last 18 road games.

While I think the Lightning will play with utter desperation and win this game, I’m more comfortable recommending the ‘over’ six goals for a Wednesday NHL pick.

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