NHL Playoffs 2011, Capitals Vs. Lightning Game 3: Capitals Fall 4-3, Face 3-0 Series Deficit

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored two goals within 24 seconds of each other in the third period to steal Game 3, 4-3, and put the Capitals in a nearly insurmountable 3-0 series hole.

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NHL Playoffs 2011, Capitals Vs. Lightning, Game 3 Score: Tampa Bay Finds Lightning In A Bottle, Wins 4-3

The Washington Capitals knew coming into Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals that they needed a win to have any chance of making a comeback from a 2-0 series deficit. For a while, it looked like the Caps figured things out, scoring their first power play goal of the series and holding a lead in the third period for the first time. Yet, Tampa Bay found lightning in a bottle and took command of the series.

Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone scored 24 seconds apart in the third period and the Lightning held on for a 4-3 win to put the Caps in a 3-0 hole.

Mike Knuble, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin scored in the second period and the Caps entered the final period with a 3-2 lead. Yet, after dominating the middle frame, the Lightning struck back in the third. First, Stamkos broke free into the slot and fired a snap shot past Michal Neuvirth (26 saves) at 5:23. At 5:47, Ryan Malone cut to the net and got enough on Nate Thompson's centering pass to sneak the puck past Neuvirth to give the Lightning the lead for good.

With a 3-0 deficit to overcome, the Caps can look around the NHL for inspiration. Last season, the Philadelphia Flyers overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Boston Bruins. This season, the Chicago Blackhawks erased a 3-0 hole against the Vancouver Canucks before losing in seven games. Either way, the Caps, who are 2-2 all-time in Game 4's when trialing 3-0 in a series, must win tomorrow or their season is over.

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NHL Playoffs 2011, Capitals Vs. Lightning, Game 3 Score: Caps' Power Play Breaks Through For 3-2 Lead

The Washington Capitals had a goal taken away from them in the first period, but they made up for it by scoring three in the second.

Mike Knuble, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin scored to give the Caps a 3-2 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning after 40 minutes.

Knuble, whose apparent power play goal was negated in the first period, made sure there was no doubt when he scored just 59 seconds into the period. Ovechkin had a step on the Lightning defense on a breakaway, but Dwayne Roloson poke-checked the puck away. Ovechkin, however, gathered the loose puck and threw it on net. Knuble was there to clean up the mess for his second goal of the playoffs.

Carlson gave the Caps their first lead since the second period of Game 1 when he fired a slap shot from the center point that beat a heavily-screened Roloson for his first goal of the playoffs at 7:58.

The lead did not last long as Vincent Lecavalier got enough of his stick on Martin St. Louis' centering pass to beat Michal Neuvirth at 11:51.

The Caps' power play, which had been 0-11 entering the game in the series, finally broke through at 17:27 thanks to Ovechkin. With a 5-on-3 advantage because of two Tampa Bay hooking calls within 34 seconds of each other, the Caps put pressure on the Lightning. A scrum in front had Roloson sprawling for the puck, but it squirted out into the slot. Ovechkin was all alone when he gathered the puck and fired a top-shelf wrist shot over Roloson's glove hand for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

Shots were 14-7 in favor of the Caps in the period and are 27-15 in favor of the Caps for the game.

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NHL Playoffs 2011, Capitals Vs. Lightning Game 3 Score: Sean Bergenheim Gives Lightning 1-0 Lead

Just when it looked like the Caps had figured out their power play woes, another bad line change cost them.

The referees negated Mike Knuble's apparent power play goal because of a penalty and Sean Bergenheim took advantage of a turnover in the Caps' defensive zone to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.

When Randy Jones interfered with Jason Chimera at 7:13, the Caps went to their first power play of the night with a chance to break their 0-11 streak in the series. Knuble thought that he fixed the power play outage when he tucked the puck underneath Dwayne Roloson, but the referee waved the goal off when he realized that the Caps had too many men on the ice. Just like in Game 2, when a bad line change cost the Caps the game, another miscommunication cost them a much-needed early lead.

At 11:03, Bergenheim made the Caps pay for their sloppy pay and missed chance when Steve Downie stole the puck from Brooks Laich in the defensive zone and tapped it up to Bergenheim, who worked a give-and-go with Dominic Moore. Moore passed back to Bergenheim and he slipped the puck past Michal Neuvirth for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

Despite the score, shots are 13-8 in favor or Washington.

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NHL Playoffs 2011, Capitals Vs. Lightning Game 3: Starting LIneup

Via Katie Carrera of The Washington Post, below is tonight's starting lineup for the Washington Capitals as they prepare to face off with the Tampa Bay Lightning in a pivotal Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series. The Caps will look to avoid an almost-insurmountable 3-0 series deficit with a win at St. Pete Times Forum.

#Caps lines for Gm3: 8-19-22, 21-90-28, 25-44-16, 18-15-10. D 27-74, 55-23, 4-52. Neuvirth in goal.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

 

The first line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble returns, while Marcus Johansson will center the second line with Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin. Jason Chimera, Jason Arnott and Eric Fehr will make up the third line and Marco Sturm, Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley are the fourth line. For the second game in a row, Matt Hendricks is a healthy scratch.

The defensive pairings are John Carlson - Karl Alzner, Jeff Schultz - Scott Hannan, and John Erskine - Mike Green. Michal Neuvirth will get the start in net.

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Capitals Vs. Lightning, Game 3: Michal Neuvirth To Start For Washington

In the past, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau would respond to NHL Playoffs adversity by switching goaltenders. That will not happen in 2011, though, despite the Capitals facing a 2-0 hole against the Tampa Bay Lightning. At the team's morning skate before a pivotal Game 3 on Tuesday, Boudreau told reporters that Michal Neuvirth will remain the starting goalie.

Via Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times:

Michal Neuvirth will be in nets for the Capitals at St. Pete Times Forum. Boudreau named Neuvirth the starter Tuesday morning and said he hadn't contemplated a goalie change.

"We're very comfortable with him," Boudreau said. "You look at the goals that have been scored - there's not much he can do about them."

There were some eyebrows raised when reporters noticed that Boudreau called Semyon Varlamov into his office for a meeting, but as it turned out, it was just a routine meeting, nothing more. Neuvirth has been solid all postseason, so a goalie change probably wouldn't have made a ton of sense anyway.

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NHL Playoffs 2011, Capitals Vs. Lightning Game 3: Washington Faces Must-Win Road Game

It has come down to this for the Washington Capitals. They have already lost the first two games of their 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on home ice. Now, they must win Game 3 in Tampa Bay Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. to have any chance in the series. If they lose, it will take an absolute miracle to continue on in a season that had so much promise just a month ago.

Have the Capitals been a bit unlucky to lose the first two games of the series? Perhaps. But they have also been outplayed, as their power play has been stuck in neutral for a long, long time. Alex Ovechkin came through with a big goal to tie the game in regulation at the end of Game 2, but his running mate, Nicklas Backstrom, has now gone 15 games without scoring. Washington has also made several uncharacteristically poor line changes, one of which led to Vincent Lecavalier's game-winning goal in Game 2.

The Capitals have come back from down 2-0 before, doing it in 2009 to defeat the New York Rangers in the first round. But now, they must do it again against a better team and with much more at stake. That journey begins now.

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