2011 NHL Playoffs: Lightning Look For 2-0 Series Lead Over Capitals

After beating the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Friday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning will hit the ice in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal on Sunday night looking for an unexpected two-game lead in the best-of-seven series. The opening faceoff is a little after 7:00pm Eastern time, with TV coverage on Versus.

Once the Lightning took a 3-2 lead in the last minute of the second period on Steven Stamkos’s power-play goal, the Capitals fell right into Guy Boucher’s trap — literally. Tampa Bay spent the third period frustrating Washington, and especially Alex Ovechkin, with their 1-3-1 defensive setup. The Capitals were forced to the edges in the neutral and the offensive zones, and when Ovechkin tried to go it alone, several Lightning defenders were waiting for him to stop his rush and take the puck away. The Lightning also shut down the high-powered Washington power play, killing all five of their chances with the man advantage. As Tarik Al-Bashir of the Washington Post points out (registration may be required), the Capitals were offside three times on 5-on-4 situation, and the Lightning generated as many shots short-handed (five) as the Capitals did on the power play. The Lightning are now 39-for-40 killing off penalties in the playoffs, an amazing 97.5%.

Tampa Bay’s biggest issues in Game 2 are injuries. Simon Gagne fell awkwardly in the first period of Game 1 after a clean hit from Scott Hannan and did not return. Neither did Pavel Kubina after being elbowed into the glass by Jason Chimera. While the team has officially listed them as day-to-day with "upper body injuries", the two are not expected to be in the lineup on Sunday night. Now that their AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, have finished their season, the Lightning have called up a total of six players, including Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola. According to Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times, one of those players is likely to replace Gagne in the lineup. Cristodero also reports Randy Jones, who hasn’t played since early March due to a combination of injury and defensive depth, would step in for Kubina.

One interesting stat: The only other time the Lightning and Capitals met in the playoffs, the road team won the first two games of the series. The only difference is that it was the Capitals who won Games 1 and 2 in Tampa in 2003, and then they proceeded to lose four straight as Martin St. Louis sent them home in triple overtime of Game 6.

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