NHL Playoff Game Night: 5/4/11 Capitals at Lightning

Better team on ice sweeps best team on paper.

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Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-0

Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. He gave the Caps a glimmer of hope with a pretty bad goal allowed to Erskine, but the Lightning just weren't losing tonight. Not with the way that the Caps were playing, at least.

First Period
12:37 TB Malone (3), Lecavalier (7), St Louis (7)(PP)
18:30 WSH Sturm (1), Arnott (4), Ovechkin (5)(PP)

Second Period
04:41 TB Bergenheim (6), Moore (5), Downie (9)
12:34 TB Bergenheim (7), Moore (6)
13:40 WSH Erskine (1), unassisted

Third Period
05:07 TB Bergeron (1), Downie (10), Purcell (9)(PP)
16:52 TB St Louis (6), Purcell (10)
17:54 WSH Carlson (2), Laich (6), Arnott (5)

Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore, and Steve Downie were the game's three stars. As of this post, Bergenheim (Thor!) is tied for the league lead in playoff goals at 7 along with teammate Martin St. Louis and a couple of others. That guy's motor has been an inspiration to the team all season long.

If I'm not mistaken, this was the first time in the entire playoffs the Lightning actually led a game in shots on goal. Go figure.

If you were to write a textbook on how to rob a really good hockey team of their belief, confidence, and will to fight, you might write 4 chapters of it about this playoff series. By last night, in Game 3, it was pretty clear that the Capitals' team concept was coming unglued at the seams, and tonight they played 60 minutes of turnover riddled, undisciplined, awful hockey. They were surrendering great chances to the Lightning at an alarming clip right from the opening moments of this game, and it became very clear very quickly this was going to be the Lightning's night. Even dead dragging tired against a very talented roster the team that adheres to their system is always going to beat the team that is out there playing like 19 individuals. Always.

With their victory, the Lightning complete a season where they took revenge on every single team in the Southeast Division one-by-one. They swept the Atlanta Thrashers with 6 regular season wins. They doomed the Florida Panthers to the worst record in the Eastern Conference with a late season victory. And, they held the Carolina Hurricanes out of the playoffs with a victory in the last game of the regular season. The only Southeast Division team they hadn't mastered in the regular season was the Washington Capitals, and it looks like they were just saving the worst humiliation for last by sweeping the team that had amassed the best regular season record in the Eastern Conference.

On paper, the Capitals should have won this series and many pundits were picking the Caps to breeze past the Lightning in 5 or 6 games just as they did the New York Rangers. However, in this series, the Lightning had just the right mix of great goaltending, great coaching, and opportunistic goal scoring to plant, cultivate, and harvest the seeds of doubt in the Washington locker room. It was complete, systematic, and thorough, and the end result will be, I suspect, the firing of Bruce Boudreau and a fairly significant shake up of the Capitals roster. Boudreau lost his team because, I suspect, deep down his team knew Boudreau was getting owned by Guy Boucher. He'll never admit it in public and I never expect to ever hear him crow about it, but Boucher had a master plan going into this season and he exposed Boudreau with ruthless precision as an empty 3XL shirt behind the Capitals bench. I'm hard pressed to think of another time when an NHL coach outdid another NHL coach this badly over the course of a series. Wow.

And now, the Lightning will get some richly deserved rest. It's critical. Martin St. Louis looked like he was going to pass out after Game 3 during interviews in the locker room and the team looked gassed during several junctures of tonight's game. Unfortunately, with Boston pulling into a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia, it's looking like the Lightning might only get a few days respite for their effort, unless the Flyers find a pulse very quickly. In any event, at least the Lightning will get a few days off to hopefully get Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina healthy and ready to go for the next series. The Eastern Conference Finals are going to be a momentous challenge for the Lightning, because although the Caps were the best team in the East on paper, you can be sure the best 2 teams in the East on the ice are going to be squaring off in the next round.

Blair Jones was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 7:09. He earned a little promotion to play some minutes on Vincent Lecavalier's line and drew rave reviews in the few shifts he was out. He's given a tired team some energy and some edge when they needed it. Very good.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.