TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi didn't mince words after the Washington Capitals put together a strong effort in a 4-2 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena on Friday.
"I think it's a pretty simple answer, I think they were just the better team tonight," Girardi said. "They were on top of us. They didn't give us any space. We couldn't really sustain a forecheck. You give that team time and space, give them 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s, and they're going to make you pay."
For the first two periods Washington controlled the ice and built a 4-0 lead to flip the home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series. Game 2 is here on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
[WATCH: All Capitals vs. Lightning highlights | Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]
The Lightning struggled clearing the puck and couldn't create quality scoring chances. Tampa Bay had two shots on goal in the first period and 10 through the first two while Washington had 25 (9-16).
"I'm not taking anything away from Washington because they came out and executed their game plan," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "They played simple and earned their breaks, earned their power plays and capitalized on them. And we didn't."
Tampa Bay's penalty kill, which has been inconsistent in the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, gave up two power-play goals and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was pulled after two periods for Louis Domingue.
"Obviously we've got to try and stay out of the box the best we can," Girardi said. "They've got a really good power play over there and obviously they got a couple. Yep, they were just the better team tonight by far."
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The Lightning lost Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins after a six-day layoff, then rallied to win four straight and close out the series in five games. Tampa Bay had a four-day layoff coming into Game 1 on Friday but captain Steven Stamkos didn't want to use that as an excuse.
"For whatever reason, they were quicker to pucks, they were more disciplined in their structure, they were better on special teams," Stamkos said. "That's a pretty good recipe to win. We know we have to be much better, and we'll get back at it tomorrow at practice and respond.
"We just have to be way more assertive on the ice and play with that edge that we had after Game 1 of the last series."
The Lightning appeared to find their legs in the third period with Stamkos and Ondrej Palat each scoring a goal, but it wasn't enough.
Video: WSH@TBL, Gm1: Kucherov sets up Stamkos for PPG
Girardi said the best thing they can do is move forward and put in a good practice Saturday to prepare for Game 2.
"Obviously we knew what happened in Game 1 against Boston and you don't expect the same thing to happen again, but it did," he said. "We'll find some answers here, regroup, have a good skate [Saturday] and pretty much whatever we did today do the opposite on Sunday."
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