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5 Keys: Capitals at Lightning, Game 7

Washington must stay physical; Tampa Bay needs shoot-first mentality

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

CAPITALS at LIGHTNING

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS

Best-of-7 series tied 3-3

 

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals will play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. The winner will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, which will start Monday.

"It's just a great opportunity, an experience that 40 players and two organizations and coaching staffs are going to have today," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "You're going to just leave everything out there, and if you do that you won't have any regrets."

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

This is the third time in the past four seasons the Lightning have played Game 7 of the conference final, but the first time at home. They defeated the New York Rangers 2-0 in 2015 and lost 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016.

The Capitals are 3-7 in Game 7s since 2008, but all of those were in the first two rounds.

Here are five keys for Game 7:

 

1. Holtby vs. Vasilevskiy

The team that's had the better goaltending has won each game.

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby outplayed Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy in Games 1 and 2, and won both by allowing four goals on 56 shots. Vasilevskiy gave up 10 goals on 62 shots.

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm6: Holtby stops one-timer by Stamkos

Vasilevskiy allowed six goals on 106 shots in Games 3-5 and won them all; Holtby allowed 10 goals on 64 shots.

Holtby won Game 6 with a 24-save shutout in a 3-0 victory. Vasilevskiy was good, making 28 saves on 30 shots, but got no help from his offense.

Dare we say the better goalie in Game 7 will get his team into the Cup Final.

 

2. Stay loose

Each team seemed loose at its morning skate, and has to stay that way.

The Lightning had more noise; there was more hooting and hollering, and smiles everywhere.

The Capitals were loose and upbeat, especially Trotz, who skated the "hot lap" to kick off the morning skate; it's a tradition started by center Jay Beagle earlier in the playoffs and adopted by captain Alex Ovechkin at the end of the second round.

Video: Rupp and Tanguay break down the Capitals power play

"When you're growing up and you're dreaming of things or you're looking at your idols, I don't remember myself sitting up and saying, 'Oh my gosh, do I want to get that game-winning goal in Game 2,'" Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It's Game 7. Not too many people get to be a part of this, and to be able to -- like, you're writing history. That's how we can embrace that."

 

3. Capitals must stay physical

The Capitals have outhit the Lightning in five consecutive games and by a total of 191-146 in the series, including 39-19 in their 3-0 win in Game 6. The physicality can have a carryover effect, especially if they come out with the same intensity early in Game 7.

"The imagery of playing hard and playing with some weight, that can be good for us," Trotz said.

 

4. Lightning need shoot-first mentality

The Lightning have been too passive, and it's hurting their offense. They have no goals in the last 99:27, since Ryan Callahan scored 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5.

Video: WSH@TBL, Gm5: Callahan scores 33 seconds into 2nd

Tampa Bay has been outshot 209-145 in the series, including 60-32 since Callahan's goal. The Lightning have had 49 shot attempts blocked in the past three games.

"We've got to hit double digits [in shots on goal] every period," defenseman Victor Hedman said.

 

5. Secondary scoring

Lightning center Steven Stamkos has no points in five career Game 7s, and right wing Nikita Kucherov has no points in three Game 7s. Ovechkin has three goals in 10 career Game 7s.

It's possible the biggest goal of the season for either team could come from an unexpected source, the way it did for the Lightning in Game 5, when fourth-liners Cedric Paquette and Callahan scored, and for the Capitals in Game 6, when fourth-liner Devante Smith-Pelly scored.

Video: WSH@TBL, Gm5: Paquette gives Lightning early lead

 

Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson -- Jay Beagle -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Brooks Orpik -- Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

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

Injured: None

 

Lightning projected lineup

Alex Killorn -- Steven Stamkos -- Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Tyler Johnson

Yanni Gourde -- Anthony Cirelli -- J.T. Miller

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)

 

Status report

Tampa Bay is expected to dress the same 20 players for the 15th time in 17 playoff games. ... The Lightning roster has a combined 78 games of Game 7 experience. Washington's roster has a combined 67 games.

***

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