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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Lightning can even series against Capitals

Washington looks to solve Tampa Bay power play in Game 4 of Eastern Conference Final

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the 2018 NHL postseason. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who lost the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals, can tie the series with a win in Game 4 at Capital One Arena on Thursday. The Capitals can take a commanding 3-1 series lead, but the visiting team has won each of the first three games.

 

 
What's on tap 

Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) -- The Lightning, not the Capitals, looked like the team that finished first in the Eastern Conference in their 4-2 victory in Game 3. Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, Tampa Bay looks to even things up before heading back home. The Lightning power play has been lethal in the Eastern Conference Final, going 5-for-12, including two goals in Game 3 that built a two-goal lead. Washington, 3-4 at home in the postseason, is hoping center Nicklas Backstrom can return from a hand injury before it's too late.

 

Hurry back, Nicklas

The Capitals felt the absence of Backstrom in their Game 3 loss, another reason they need him back in the lineup as soon as possible.

 

From Russia with glove

Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning has been compared to legendary Russia-born goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. That's high praise, especially when you consider it comes from Tretiak himself.

 

Lightning striking 

Center Steven Stamkos is heating up for Tampa Bay, especially on the power play. That is not good news for Washington.

 

About last night

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Winnipeg Jets 2 -- Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves, 30 in the final two periods, to help the Golden Knights hold on and take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Final. Jonathan Marchessault scored 35 seconds into the game and capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with three seconds left. But Fleury was the story, denying the Jets with save after save, including an incredible lunging stop against Mark Scheifele midway through the third period.  

 

What we learned 

Here are some takeaways from Day 36 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

 

Vegas can't rest on laurels 

The Golden Knights are the first team to defeat the Jets in consecutive games this postseason, and the first to lead Winnipeg in a series. But they can't get caught up in their accomplishments. They realize that, and began preaching it immediately following Game 3. "We're taking it game by game, we've had that mentality all year," defenseman Shea Theodore said. "Throughout the year we were playing well but we weren't focused on playoffs. And here we are playing well, and we're just looking forward to the next one.''

 Video: Breaking down Game 3 between Vegas and Winnipeg

 

Golden Knights must get puck deep

Vegas began to struggle in the third period when it could not get the puck deep into the Jets zone and establish a cycle game. Instead, Winnipeg had free entry out of its zone and was able to build speed through the neutral zone, exposing holes in the Golden Knights defense. It didn't help that center Mark Scheifele scored on the first shift of the third to give the visitors some momentum. 

 

Jets need to focus on movement …

The Jets' slow start in Game 3 was a result of uncertainty and turnovers, which comes down to a lack of quickness. No doubt the consistent Golden Knights had something to do with that, but Winnipeg's improvement in those areas in the second period flipped the script and the momentum, but it could not get the tying goal against Fleury.

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm3: Maurice on Jets' 4-2 loss to Vegas

 

… and take better care of the puck 

The Jets allowed three goals coming off turnovers. It's hardly a revelation for any game of hockey, and having to spend time on reminders for such fundamentals can't be pleasing for Winnipeg, but the Jets' ability to put those miscues behind them and focuson the right kind of quick game will be essential for a competitive effort in Game 4.

 

The show before the show

The Golden Knights took the pregame show to another level before Game 3. You have to see it to believe it.

 

Facts and Figures

Fleury continues to climb up the NHL's all-time list for playoff victories. The win in Game 3 was his 72nd in the playoffs, and moved him past Jacques Plante into sole possession ninth place on the all-time list. He's two behind Chris Osgood (74) for eighth.

The victory was the 10th for Vegas in the postseason this year. The Golden Knights are two wins from reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their first season. The 1996 Florida Panthers are the only team in NHL history to have more victories than the Golden Knights in their first playoff appearance. Florida was 12-10 in its third NHL season; the Panthers reached the Final but were swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

History is on the side of the Golden Knights after their win Wednesday. Since 1974-75, there have been 43 times when a conference finals or NHL Semifinals series was tied 1-1; the Game 3 winner is 35-8 (81.4 percent).

Scheifele's two goals in Game 3 were his 10th and 11th on the road in this year's playoffs, setting an NHL record for most road goals in one postseason. The previous mark of 10 was set by Joe Mullen with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and matched by Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Scheifele scored seven goals in 28 road games during the regular season.

More Scheifele: he has 14 goals in 15 games this postseason, leading all goal-scorers. The last player with more was Crosby, who had 15 in 24 games in 2009. Reggie Leach of the Philadelphia Flyers (1976) and Jari Kurri of the Edmonton Oilers (1985) hold the record with 19. 

Scheifele also has nine multipoint games, the most since Daniel Briere (11) of the Philadelphia Flyers and Patrick Kane (nine) of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Mario Lemieux of the Penguins holds the record with 14 in 1991.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final Coverage

Lightning vs. Capitals

Jets vs. Golden Knights

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