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Conference Final

Stamkos, Hedman better prepared for Lightning series vs. Capitals

Enter Eastern Conference Final with fond memories of 2011 win against Washington

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Steven Stamkos was 21 and Victor Hedman was 20 the last time the Tampa Bay Lightning played the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Stamkos, now the Lightning's No. 1 center and captain, and Hedman, Tampa Bay's No. 1 defenseman and a two-time Norris Trophy finalist, are the only two players still with the Lightning from their four-game sweep of the Capitals in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Stamkos scored two goals in the four games, including the winner in Game 1. Hedman had two assists.

"It's been a long time," Hedman said. "What was I? 21 maybe? But it was a fun series. We came off that Game 7 win against Pittsburgh (in the first round). We were able to win four straight against Washington, all very close games but we were able to pull them out."


[RELATED: Lightning vs. Capitals playoff preview | Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]


The Lightning and Capitals will add another chapter to their playoff history in the Eastern Conference Final, with Game 1 at Tampa Bay on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

That 2011 postseason was the first in the NHL for Stamkos and Hedman; it ended with a loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

At the time, the Lightning and Capitals were in the Southeast Division and developed a rivalry competing for the division title and top seed in the conference. The Lightning finished second in the division with 103 points, four behind the Capitals.

Stamkos said it made games against Washington a little more intense.

"Obviously when you're in the division there's just that natural rivalry," he said. "We played them in the playoffs a long time ago and were battling for divisions and things like that. It's a little different when you don't see them as much in the regular season and you don't see them usually until you can get to a position like where we are right now in the conference final."

Stamkos and Hedman said that because of personnel and coaching changes on each side, there isn't a lot to take from that series in 2011 and relate it to 2018.

But Hedman said the lessons he learned about playoff hockey from the leaders of that 2011 Lightning team -- forwards Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer -- are the things he carries with him.

"You try and pick up as much as you can and I still do," Hedman said. "Looking back at Marty and Vinny, Ohlund, Brewer, you tried to pick up things from them and try to get better on the ice and off the ice. You try to get better every game and push yourself to play your best hockey every night. That goes for me and everyone in this room. That was one of the best messages I got. You have to play your best hockey in the playoffs and you have to get better as the playoffs go on. You have to always raise your game higher if you want to win."


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