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Capitals miss opportunity against Lightning in Game 4

Outshoot Tampa Bay 38-20 in loss that evens Eastern Final

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- After watching Tampa Bay Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli score an empty-net goal with 1.5 seconds remaining, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin glided toward the vacated cage and broke his stick in half over the crossbar.

It was a frustrating end for Ovechkin and the Capitals, who dominated much of the game Thursday. But the Lightning made more plays in key moments to pull out a 4-2 victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at Capital One Arena.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Now the best-of-7 series Washington led 2-0 after winning the first two games on the road is tied 2-2 with Game 5 at Tampa Bay on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS).

The Capitals 4-2 loss in Game 3 on Tuesday was easier to take because they understood they didn't play well enough to win. But after they outshot the Lightning 38-20 in Game 4, they knew they let an opportunity to take control of the series slip away.

"Of course, it's a missed opportunity," Ovechkin said. "It is what it is. Nothing we can do. We're not going to look back. We're just going to look forward. This group of guys has been in different situations all year and we fight through it. So it's a huge test. We're still going to have fun, we're still going to enjoy it and we'll see what happens.

"We're going to Tampa and play our game and try to get a victory and come back home."

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm4: Trotz on power play, moving forward

That the Capitals have already won twice in Tampa in this series and are 7-1 on the road in the Stanley Cup Playoffs gives them reason to be confident. Having center Nicklas Backstrom, who returned Thursday after missing four games with a right-hand injury, should help, too.

But even in a series that has dominated by the road teams, it might be too much for the Capitals to win another game at Amalie Arena and stem the momentum the Lightning have built the past two games.

"We'll battle through it," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "This group has been resilient as [heck] all year, and I don't expect anything - nothing's come easy to this team. Everybody knows that. This team's just used to that. But we're going to go to Tampa and I expect us to respond the way we have."

Washington, which is 3-5 at Capital One Arena in the playoffs, is used to shaking off frustrating home losses. It opened the postseason with two home overtime losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets before rebounding to win that first-round series in six games.

The Capitals then began the second round by blowing a two-goal, third-period lead in a 3-2 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 and responded with wins in the next two games before advancing to the conference final in six games. 

Now they must bounce back again or face elimination at home in Game 6 on Monday.

"It's obviously something you don't want, but at the same time that's the scenario right now and I feel like you just got to look forward to the next game," said Backstrom, who had four shots on goal and won six of nine face-offs in18:51. "It's going to be a tough building, but it's best out of three now, so we've just got to regroup now. I thought we played pretty good tonight. I feel a good 60 minutes, but I think the power play was the difference."

In Game 3, the Lightning went 2-for-5 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. In Game 4, they went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and 1-for-2 on the power play, with Alex Killorn scoring the tiebreaking goal at 11:57 of the third period, six seconds after the second power play expired.

"We lost the battle again," Ovechkin said. "They scored two goals. We didn't."

Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy also was a difference-maker. After giving up 10 goals on 62 shots in Games 1 and 2, Vasilevskiy saved 36 of 38 shots in each of the two games in Washington.

On Thursday, he limited the Capitals to one goal - Evgeny Kuznetsov's that tied it 2-2 at 5:18 of the second period - during a stretch of 20:55 (from 9:16 of the first period to 10:11 of the second) when the Lightning were outshot 17-0.

Figuring out how to slow the Tampa Bay power play (6-for-14 in the series) and solving Vasilevskiy will be Washington's biggest challenges as it heads into Game 5.

"He didn't play great in the first two. He played well in the second two," Capitals forward Tom Wilson said of Vasilevskiy. "It's our job to make him look like the goalie from the first two games. We'll make it hard on him."

Video: Killorn helps Lightning edge Caps to even the series

 

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