Lightning's Steven Stamkos: Game 3 win a 'step in the right direction'

Lightning's Steven Stamkos: Game 3 win a 'step in the right direction'

Lightning's Steven Stamkos: Game 3 win a 'step in the right direction'

In the lead and in charge, the Lightning took control of the game with two goals in the first four minutes of the second period.

Tuesday at Capital One Arena, the Tampa Bay Lightning respond after dropping the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final on home ice.

The Capitals enter Tuesday's game with a 2-0 series lead over the Lightning.

"We always feel like we owe him", defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We didnt do a good job in front of him, so it was big. Vasilevskiy's going to have to play unbelievably well unless the Capitals take a step back".

Unlike the Game 1, when Tampa Bay pulled Vasilevskiy at the second intermission, or Game 2, when the net-minder was whistled for tripping and the subsequent power play led to a late second-period Capitals goal, Vasilevskiy found a rhythm early in Game 3. A lone bright spot in the poor homestand was captain Steven Stamkos appearing to heat up [VIDEO]after a slow start to the playoffs, and Stamkos and the rest of the Lightning's marquee names all came through huge in game three.

But the Lightning penalty kill, a touch-and-go subject all season for the Bolts, came up with its biggest kill of the series to date.

It wasn't flawless, but it was a more complete effort from Tampa Bay, which jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Brett Connolly answered for Washington in the second.

"Thats just guys sacrificing their body for the team", center Brayden Point said.

Getty Images
Getty Images

In Games 1 and 2, Washington had received all-star efforts from Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby. At 1:50, Nikita Kucherov, who was goalless in the first two games, scored a mirror-image goal of Stamkos' opener, and again it was Hedman on the feed.

The Lightning would still like to cut down on the quality chances Vasilevskiy will face in Game 4 on Thursday and beyond, like the one Brett Connolly scored on after a turnover by Ondrej Palat.

Keeping them scoreless was never more crucial than in the first 10 minutes, when most of the game was played in the Lightning's end.

"It doesn't matter who scores, as long as we win", said Stamkos.

But the Capitals did not get away with that cleanly, because Michal Kempny committed a cross-check 16 seconds later and forced them into defending a 4-on-3 rather than mounting a comeback.

"I can't say enough about our penalty kill tonight and how it gave us momentum as well", Stamkos said. "It just happened to work out tonight". But if anyone should know better than to look too far ahead, it's the Capitals and their long-suffering supporters.

"We checked. That was it", said Cooper, on the differences between the first two games and Game 3. "There's no secret. We've dug ourselves a hole here, but by no means is it something that we can't overcome".

"They're your top players because to get to this point you need to make sure you have 97-plus points during an 82-game season, and those guys were a big reason that we got to that point", said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. "We've made it a series".

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