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Eastern Conference Final | Lightning vs. Capitals

Conference Final

Capitals hope to 'take care of business' in Game 3 against Lightning

Can move within one win of first Cup Final appearance in 20 years

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TAMPA -- Get the next one, too.

That's the message coach Barry Trotz delivered to the Washington Capitals one day after they took a 2-0 lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final with a 6-2 win in Game 2 at Amalie Arena on Sunday.

Game 3 is at Capital One Arena in Washington on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"We get an opportunity to really put Tampa, their backs against the wall," Trotz said. "We have that opportunity. We don't want it to slip away and let them get back in it."

The Capitals know well what can happen if they allow the Lightning some life in this series.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Four weeks ago, they were in the exact same situation the Lightning are in now. The Capitals lost the first two games of their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets at home and had to go on the road to try to salvage their season.

They've won 10 of 12 since, including four in a row against Columbus, starting with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3, and seven of eight on the road.

What they were up against two rounds ago and how they got through it gives them perspective for what the Lightning are going through now.

"Anything can happen," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "It can swing fast. We thought we played pretty well and we were down 2-0 in that series. Third game goes to overtime. That could have looked a lot different. This isn't over. We're off to a heck of a start, but we've got to take care of business at home. It's all about Game 3. If they win one or two [in Washington], the momentum swings big time. We've got to take care of business."

Video: Oshie on the Caps' 6-2 Game 2 win vs. the Lightning

Washington did the job in Games 1 and 2 by scoring first in each game, by winning the battles in the neutral zone, by forcing the Lightning into turnovers that led to odd-man rushes. The Capitals scored four goals off turnovers in Game 2, including two on 2-on-1 rushes. 

"There's windows of opportunity where it opens up for you and we've been able to jump through that window a few times," Trotz said. "In playoff hockey, you have to create your own momentum sometimes, and sometimes creating your own momentum is just being patient, staying with the plan. If you stay with the plan long enough, if it's the right plan you're going to have success."

The Capitals have also created momentum with power-play goals late in periods in each game. 

Alex Ovechkin gave Washington a 2-0 lead at 19:54 of the first period in Game 1. Evgeny Kuznetsov gave them a 4-2 lead at 19:57 of the second period in Game 2.

"The commitment level to do not so glamorous stuff is so important," Niskanen said. "Little wall battles, boxing people out in front of the net, blocking a shot -- that stuff isn't pretty, the fancy stats people don't like that stuff, but that stuff wins you games. It allows your skill to come out. So, we have full commitment right now. Things have gone well so far in this series for us because of those things and we're off to a good start."

So good, in fact, the Capitals now might have a chance to take advantage of their two-game lead by potentially holding injured center Nicklas Backstrom (right hand) out for another game.

Backstrom has missed the past three games, all Washington wins. Trotz said the decision for when he returns is still in Backstrom's hands, but he indicated the status of the series means the pressure to get him back isn't as great as it would be if they were tied 1-1 or down 2-0.

"It does give us some time if we need," Trotz said. "We'll see where that is. We haven't really talked about it."

Video: Breaking down the Caps' Game 2 win vs. the Lightning

Even if Backstrom returns for Game 3, there's no guarantee he'll slide back into his regular spot on the second line. Lars Eller has been playing well in that spot in between wings T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana. He's also been effective in Backstrom's spot on the first power-play unit.

Eller has four points in the series (two goals, two assists), including a power-play goal in Game 1 that gave Washington a 4-0 lead at 6:42 of the second period. His goal at 18:58 of the second period in Game 2 was the game-winner.

"We have a plan that hasn't changed with Nicky for where he will go in," Trotz said. "When he's in, you'll see it."

There's no mystery for the Capitals overall plan for Game 3, with or without Backstrom.

"Let's get the next game," Trotz said. "That's the message."

They know what can happen if they don't.

"It can change in a heartbeat," Trotz said.

***

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