- The Lightning came into D.C. in need of a win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. A three-point night from defenseman Victor Hedman helped the Bolts top the Capitals to get it.
The Lightning struck early to secure a 4-2 win in D.C., cutting Washington’s series lead to 2-1.
Tampa Bay capitalized twice on the power play to build an early lead. After a tripping penalty was called on goaltender Braden Holtby in the first period, Steven Stamkos fired a one-time bomb that Holtby had no chance of stopping.
Lars Eller was sent to the box thrice in Game 3, his first trip resulting in the second power-play goal and eventual game-winner for Tampa Bay. Sixteen seconds into the man advantage, Nikita Kucherov went high glove side off a one-time pass from defenseman Victor Hedman to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
Hedman, who had primary assists on both power-play tallies, lit the lamp himself 1:47 later off a nifty pass from Kucherov. The Swedish defenseman now has points in eight straight games for the Lightning.
Brett Connolly put the Caps on the board just over halfway through the second, scoring off a feed from Chandler Stephenson. But Brayden Point restored the three-goal lead, making it 4-1 a few minutes later, notching his 14th point in 13 games this postseason.
Evgeny Kuznetsov cut the Bolts’ lead in half late in the third on a dazzling snipe from a bad angle. The Caps continued pressuring the final four minutes of the game, but Andrei Vasilevskiy's 36-save night slowed Washington's momentum in the game and the series.
“We haven’t done anything yet. The goal is to win a championship, but we can’t look too far ahead,” Stamkos told reporters following the game. “We’ve made it a series. That’s it, that’s what we’ve came in here to do.”
After tallying two points in each of the first two games, Alex Ovechkin was stifled in Game 3, but not without trying. Ovi had nine shots on goal and 18 shot attempts total on the night. Adding linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov’s career-high 12 shots on goal, the duo accounted for more than half of Washington’s 38 shots.
The Capitals, who are 7-1 on the road these playoffs, are 3-4 at home. The road team is carrying the advantage this year’s playoffs, 39-33.
“I didn’t think we were as focused as we have been normally on the road. Just pretend we’re on the road,” Barry Trotz said. “All the buildings are pretty well the same these days.”
Tampa Bay gets a shot at knotting the series in Thursday's Game 4 at Capital One Arena.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Stamkos’s only shot on goal for the night was a goal and that’s essentially because he fired it as hard as he possibly could.
1. Victor Hedman, TBL — The Swedish star had a goal and two assists to power the Lightning’s offensive outpouring in Game 3 that Washington couldn't match.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL — After allowing 10 goals over the first two games, Vasilevskiy bounced back in Game 3 with 36 saves.
3. Nikita Kucherov, TBL — A goal and an assist—on which he finds Hedman through several Capitals' sticks—were highlights a night in which Kucherov also had a team-leading six shots.
After a passive Game 1 loss, the Vegas Golden Knights turned things up in Game 2, most notably forward Jonathan Marchessault. The undersized forward notched a pair of goals in the win over the Jets in Winnipeg, giving the Knights a road split ahead of Wednesday’s Game 3 at home and reminding everyone of the sizable chip on their shoulder. “I think we showed the hockey world that we [earned] the right to be here and we're able to play against a great team,” he said. Among the other Knights to come up big in Game 2 was Tomas Tatar, who provided a big boost with the opening goal while replacing David Perron in the lineup. With Perron still day-to-day with an illness, Vegas’s depth will come into play again.
There isn’t much panic on the Jets’ end of things as they’re 4-0 coming off of a loss this postseason, and won’t be phased trying to improve upon that mark in enemy territory. "At this time of the year, it's all business," said forward Mathieu Perreault. "It doesn't matter if we play in whatever city tonight. Everybody is going to take care of themselves and get ready for a game." Much like the first two games of the series, a strong start will be important as the teams battle for the lead, and that means on both ends of the ice in a series already defined by quick offensive outbursts.