TAMPA -- Randy Jones barely saw the ice in the first period Sunday night. Little did he know he'd go on to play a major role in overtime.
After receiving just two shifts in the first 20 minutes, Jones realized the Washington Capitals were in the midst of a bad line change and sent a long outlet pass to Teddy Purcell, who then fed Vincent Lecavalier for the game-winner at 6:19 of overtime as the Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series with a 3-2 victory at Verizon Center.
For Jones, it was his first game since he suffered an ankle injury back on March 7. He would have only seven more shifts after the first period, but he made his final one of the night count.
"It felt fantastic," said Jones, who replaced the injured Pavel Kubina in the lineup. "I was happy to kind of get that first period over with. I told a couple of guys my first game in the NHL was in this barn, and I think I was more nervous tonight than I was back then. It felt great to get out there and be part of it again and coming out with a 'W.'
Bad line changes have been a problem for several teams during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only was Purcell open for Jones' long pass at the Washington blue line, but Lecavalier was then standing all alone in front of Michal Neuvirth, and the Lightning's captain had plenty of time to flip the puck over the Caps' goaltender for what was his second goal of the night.
"That's something we emphasize as a group -- strong changes," Jones said. "We've noticed that quite a bit in the playoffs that bad changes can really cost you. It happened in that Montreal-Boston series in overtime. I think it was just a bad change. I just saw Teddy open and I wanted to get it out of our end as quick as possible. Teddy made a great play and Vinny was able to bury it."
Jones is just the latest player on this Tampa Bay roster to contribute. In Game 1, the Lightning's third line of Dominic Moore, Sean Bergenheim and Steve Downie each found the back of the net en route to a 4-2 victory. And while Jones only received 6:25 of ice time Sunday night, his ability to read the play and make the long pass to Purcell is a big reason why Tampa Bay went home with a 2-0 series lead.
"We have a lot of guys that step up," Jones said. "There's a lot of depth on this team. When guys go down, it seems like other guys kind of step up and help contribute. We had a pretty big team effort."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL