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5 Keys: Lightning at Capitals, Game 3

Tampa Bay needs Vasilevskiy back in form; Washington aims to continue 5-on-5 dominance

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer



Washington leads best-of-7 series 2-0


WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals can move within one win of the Stanley Cup Final with a victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at Capital One Arena on Tuesday.

The Capitals, who won the first two games in Tampa Bay by a combined 10-4, are 3-3 at home in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs; the Lightning are 3-1 on the road. 

Teams that win the first two games on the road in the playoffs have a series record of 71-20.

The Capitals are 0-2 all-time after winning Games 1 and 2 on the road. They lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1996 conference quarterfinals and in six to the Lightning in the 2003 conference quarterfinals.

Here are 5 keys for Game 3:


1. Neutral zone

The Capitals have generated rush chances off Lightning turnovers and limited their speed with a 1-1-3 defensive setup. They've been quick to break the puck out and get through the neutral zone to move into the offensive zone.

Part of the Lightning's issue, coach Jon Cooper said, is the Capitals have scored the first goal in each game.

"You have to make them play catchup, because when they do have the lead, they sit back, you have to go through four guys, they all can skate, they're all angling, they're all in lanes, and it just makes it tougher," Cooper said.


2. Finding Vasilevskiy

The Lightning need goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to return to the form that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist this season.

Vasilevskiy hasn't received much help with the barrage of odd-man rushes he's faced, but he hasn't gotten his teammates off the hook either. He's allowed 10 goals on 62 shots (.839 save percentage).

"We're confident in what he does for us," Cooper said. "We just can't give these chances up. It's 2-on-1 after 2-on-1."

Video: Jaffe and Pang on the Lightning's lineup, Kucherov


3. Tampa Bay's forecheck, again

The forecheck that helped Tampa Bay defeat the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in the first two rounds has been a nonfactor against Washington.

The Lightning have not forced Capitals defensemen into quick decisions when they go back to get the puck. It's been too easy for Washington to break out of the defensive zone. When they do that, they control the neutral zone.

"I think our wall play has especially been one of the key components of our success," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. "If you can dominate the wall plays, you can usually have success and create odd-man rushes, and [we] do a good job of that."


4. 5-on-5 production

The power plays have canceled out with each team going 3-for-7, so the difference is at 5-on-5, when the Capitals have outscored the Lightning 7-1. 

The 5-on-5 production circles back to the Capitals winning the battles in the neutral zone, which goes back to making the Lightning's forecheck ineffective.

"You're going to see there's a lot of five guys in the picture," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "Any time you look on the screen, there's five guys and that just means you're playing as a group of five, and you're playing connected and playing with real good structure and responsibility."

Video: The crew breaks down the Caps' lead going into Game 3


5. Holtby's workload

The Lightning haven't put Holtby under much pressure. That must change in Game 3.

Holtby made 19 saves on 21 shots in Game 1 and 33 saves on 35 shots in Game 2, but there haven't been many Grade A chances for the Lightning. He hasn't faced many scrums in front of his net and hasn't had to deal with many deflections either. 

"We've been committed in front of the net," Holtby said. "We're on the same page."


Lightning projected lineup

J.T. Miller -- Steven Stamkos -- Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn -- Anthony Cirelli -- Yanni Gourde

Chris Kunitz -- Cedric Paquette -- Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman -- Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh -- Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn -- Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Scratched: Andrej Sustr, Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek, Cory Conacher, Peter Budaj

Injured: Adam Erne (lower body)


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Lars Eller -- T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky -- Chandler Stephenson -- Brett Connolly

Devante Smith-Pelly -- Jay Beagle -- Alex Chiasson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Brooks Orpik -- Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek, Shane Gersich, Travis Boyd, Nathan Walker, Pheonix Copley

Injured: Nicklas Backstrom (right hand)


Status report

Backstrom remains day to day. He is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game. Washington is 3-0 without him.


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