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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Capitals, Lightning headed for Game 7

Washington forces deciding game in Eastern Conference Final

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the 2018 NHL postseason. There will be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth straight season thanks to the Washington Capitals, who defeated the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game 6 on Monday. Tampa Bay has played in two of the previous three Game 7s, going 1-1. The series will be decided at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS).

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 41 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

Capitals' Holtby has an A-game, too

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was one of the main reasons the Lightning won Games 3, 4 and 5. It was goaltender Braden Holtby's turn to answer for the Capitals in Game 6, making 24 saves for his first shutout since April 5, 2017. He wasn't as busy as Vasilevskiy, but came up with some key saves when needed, particularly early in the third period when Washington was clinging to a 1-0 lead and Tampa Bay was pressing for the tying goal. The Lightning had the first five shots on goal of the third period, including one from the top of the left circle by forward Ondrej Palat that Holtby reached back to snare with his glove at 6:59.

 

Lightning offense struggling

Scoring hadn't been a problem Tampa Bay all season, but it is now. The Lightning led the NHL in scoring during the regular season with 3.54 goals per game. They were fourth in the League with 3.33 goals per game in the playoffs entering Game 6, but haven't scored since forward Ryan Callahan's goal 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5, a stretch of 99:27. Tampa Bay hasn't scored a power-play goal since Game 4, going 0-for-4 since. It's a small sample size, but that's what the playoffs are all about. Everything is magnified, so the Lightning's scoring drought has become a storyline going into Game 7. It would help if they shot the puck more; the Capitals have outshot them 209-145 in the series.

Video: Jaffe and Pang on the Lightning-Capitals series

 

Capitals are resilient

This has been a recurring theme for Washington this postseason and a big reason why the Capitals are one win from the Stanley Cup Final. No doubt many counted the Capitals out after they lost three straight to go down 3-2 in the series after winning Games 1 and 2 on the road. They responded with their best game of the postseason Monday, playing with urgency, physicality and complete defensive commitment. They'll have one more chance to prove their doubters wrong in Game 7 on Wednesday.

 

Lightning must be more physical

Tampa Bay has been outhit in five straight games and by a total of 191-146 in the series. Washington's physicality finally made a difference in Game 6; the Capitals had 39 hits to the Lightning's 19. Washington was able to take control of the game by outmuscling Tampa Bay, negating some of the Lightning's speed and creating some chaos on breakouts. It's fair to wonder how much of a carryover effect that will have in Game 7. The Lightning, though, can be physical too. They showed that in the second round against the Boston Bruins, when they outhit the Bruins in four of the five games, including 42-24 in a 4-2 win in Game 2 and 37-29 in a series-clinching 3-1 win in Game 5. If Tampa Bay can't get an early lead in Game 7, it's going to have to match Washington's physical play.

 

Facts and figures

This is the fifth consecutive season at least one conference finals series will require a Game 7. Two of those games also involved the Lightning -- they defeated the New York Rangers in 2015 and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. The others in that span: 2014 (Los Angeles Kings 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final) and 2017 (Penguins 3-2 double-overtime win against the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Final). 

Washington will play in its 11th Game 7 since the beginning of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most among all teams in that span.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and forward Alex Ovechkin each are set to make his 11th NHL Game 7 appearances, one fewer than Zdeno Chara (12) for the most among active players. In addition to Chara, five other players in NHL history have appeared in more Game 7s: Patrick Roy (13), Scott Stevens (13), Glenn Anderson (12), Ken Daneyko (12) and Stephane Yelle (12).

This is the 33rd time in NHL history a Game 7 will be required to determine a Stanley Cup finalist. Home teams own a 21-11 edge in the previous 32 such contests.

Tampa Bay will host Game 7 on Wednesday. The Capitals are 7-2 on the road this postseason; the Lightning are 6-3 at home.

Of the 171 all-time Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

* The team that scores first is 127-44 (.743), including a 1-1 mark in 2018.

* Home teams own a 100-71 (.585) advantage, including a 1-1 record in 2018.

* Forty-one have required overtime (24.2 percent). Home teams have a 21-20 edge.

 

Here's the story

Unfinished business

The Capitals played a near-perfect Game 6 and will need a similar effort in Game 7 to get to the Stanley Cup Final.

Better late than never

Holtby picked a heck of a time for his first shutout of the season.

'We were no good'

Lightning coach Jon Cooper didn't mince words when describing his team's performance in Game 6.

About last night

Washington Capitals 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 0 -- Holtby made 24 saves and T.J. Oshie scored twice to lift Washington, which won at home for the first time in the series. It was Holtby's first shutout of the season, regular season included, and the fifth postseason shutout of his career. The Capitals are 3-7 in Game 7s since 2008 and 4-11 all time, including 1-3 on the road. The Lightning are 5-2 in Game 7s, including 2-2 in the conference final (2004, 2011, 2015 and 2016).

 

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