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Conference Final

Lightning 'haven't accomplished anything yet' heading into Game 6

Have won three straight against Capitals looking to close out East Final

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are drawing on past experiences as they prepare to play the Washington Capitals in Game 6 against in the Eastern Conference Final on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN1).

The Lightning, who reached the conference final for the third time in four seasons, would advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in that span with a win.


[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]


"We've been in these situations before," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "These last four years or three playoff runs, you just do the math, every different way, we've been up 3-2, down 3-2, been on the road, been at home. But we can't look back, we just have to look forward."

If the Lightning win Monday, they will be the first team to lose Games 1 and 2 at home and come back to win a conference final/second-round series since the Stanley Cup Playoffs expanded to four rounds in 1974-75. They had a 3-2 series lead in the conference final in 2015 (defeated the New York Rangers in seven games), and in 2016 (lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games). Each time, the Lightning played Game 6 at home. This time they'll be in Washington, where they won Games 3 and 4 and are 5-1 on the road in the playoffs.

When the Lightning have had the chance to close a series this postseason, they're 2-0. They eliminated the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins in five games in the first and second rounds, respectively. 

"I mean, the series isn't over until you win four games, so we haven't accomplished anything yet," center Tyler Johnson said. "We're one game away but that's what it is: one game away. So you never want to give a team life. You want to try to get it over as fast as possible."

Video: Early goals ignite Lightning in Game 5 win vs. Caps

To that end, the Lightning want and need their best performance of the series in Game 6. They've looked good at times, including the first period of a 3-2 win in Game 5 in which center Cedric Paquette scored 19 seconds into the game and left wing Ondrej Palat scored 8:45 later. But after Ryan Callahan's goal gave them a 3-0 lead 33 seconds into the second period, the Lightning got too defensive and the Capitals dictated play.

"You have such a great start, get up 3-0 and the natural tendency is to defend, sit back a little," center Steven Stamkos said. "We don't necessarily need more goals and we don't want them to score. But sometimes you sit back too much. The talk with us is, let's continue to play aggressively. Don't take any risks or chances, but we're at our best when we're skating and using our legs to check. We saw that in the first period and a half when we were all over them. We got away from that a bit and that'll be a key for us to start the game tomorrow."

Added Johnson: "I think you have to have the same mentality as we had in the first. Our first was good. That was probably the only time we played our game to a T. We sat back a little bit with the lead and everything. But the mentality shouldn't change. You have to keep pressing. But we were able to win, so that's all that matters."

The Lightning, who are 7-5 in the past four seasons when they have a chance to win a playoff series, have been here and done this before and know the approach they must take.

"We're going to have to match their urgency," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the Capitals. "We're going to have to match that. The closeout games or potential closeout games, they just seem to bring out the best in everybody. For us, we've had some success when we've gotten the lead. When you do that you put a little pressure on the other team. That's something we'll try to focus on tomorrow night."


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