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Conference Final

Lightning fail to generate offense in Eastern Final loss to Capitals

Scoring drought, struggles at home among reasons for ouster

by Corey Long / Correspondent

The Tampa Bay Lightning were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in three seasons with a seven-game loss to the Washington Capitals.

The Lightning won three straight games to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series but did not score in the final two games.

It's a disappointing end to a season when they set their records with 54 wins and 113 points.

Here are 5 reasons the Lightning were eliminated in the conference final:


[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]


1. Offense goes cold

The Lightning, who led the NHL with 3.54 goals per game, did not score for the final 159:27 of the series.

The Capitals outshot the Lightning 232-174, but Tampa Bay had a lot of shots blocked or shots that did not get to the net. In Game 7, Tampa Bay had 60 shot attempts but 29 shots on goal. When they did get opportunities, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made a save, including his stop on Alex Killorn on a breakaway in the second period.

The scoring drought was a surprise because the Lightning were shut out once all season, a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on March 17.

"They defended well, they blocked a lot of shots and they boxed us out in front of the net," Tampa Bay forward Yanni Gourde said of Washington. "They were really hungry for rebounds and didn't want to give us a second opportunity. They did a good job of doing that and you have to give them credit."


2. Home-ice disadvantage

After going 5-1 in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Lightning lost three of four at home in the conference final.

Washington outscored Tampa Bay 16-7 in the four games at Amalie Arena, including a 4-0 win in Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Video: Discussing the Lightning being eliminated in Game 7


3. Kucherov goes silent

Forward Nikita Kucherov, who led the Lightning with 100 points (39 goals, 61 assists), had one goal and three assists in the first three games of the series ane one assist in the final four.

Kucherov hit the crossbar late in the second period of Game 6 and had three shots on goal (on five attempts) in Game 7.


4. Inconsistent play in defensive zone

The Capitals took a 2-0 series lead because they pressured the Lightning into bad passes and mistakes in their zone that led to counter attacks and odd-man rushes.

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy played well in the three games Tampa Bay won, covering for some of the mistakes. But in Game 7, failures to clear the defensive zone came to the surface again and contributed to all four goals the Capitals scored.

"We couldn't string 60 minutes of good hockey together in any of the games, really," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "I don't know if you can say that you deserve it then, and that's tough because I feel like we have a really strong team and we can play really good hockey ... just couldn't do it."


5. Secondary scorers struggle

Gourde, Tyler Johnson and J.T. Miller combined for no goals and five assists in the series. Gourde and Miller couldn't generate opportunities with their forecheck, and Johnson was taken out of the series by Washington's physical play.

Center Steven Stamkos did his part by scoring four goals but did not have a point in the final three games. The scoring depth the Lightning is known for came up short.

"Yeah, I don't know what to say," Gourde said. "I wish I was still playing. It's unfortunate, but I think we had a good group of guys here. We battled, we battled pretty hard but we didn't get the bounces. Again, you have to respect that [the Capitals] did a very good job the rest of the game and kept us out of their net."


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