Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone scored goals just 24 seconds apart in the third period as the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied for a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal. The Lightning now lead the series three games to none and will look for a surprising sweep in tomorrow night’s Game 4.
Trailing 3-2 in the third period, the Lightning stunned Washington with the fastest two goals in the franchise’s playoff history. Victor Hedman caused a turnover in the Capitals zone, and Stamkos picked it up in the high slot and snapped a wrist shot past Michal Neuvirth to tie the game 3-3 at 5:23 of the third. Then on the next shift, Karl Alzner couldn’t hold a puck at the edge of the Tampa Bay zone on a dump-in by Eric Brewer. Nate Thompson skated in behind Alzner and drove towards the corner, then threw the puck at the net where it deflected off Malone’s back skate and into the goal for a 4-3 Lightning lead at 5:47. The goal was upheld when video review confirmed Malone had not kicked the puck into the net.
If not for Neuvirth, the Lightning could have padded their lead. He made several key saves after Malone’s goal, robbing Sean Bergenheim on a shorthanded breakaway, and denying Martin St. Louis on an open backhand shot from close range. Neuvirth made 26 saves in the game.
Washington scored all three of their goals in the middle period. Mike Knuble tied the game 1-1 on a scrum in front after Alex Ovechkin had been stopped on a break and threw the puck back towards the crease from the far corner. John Carlson gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead on a low wrist shot past a screened Roloson, and Ovechkin scored late in the second period on a 5-on-3 power play, when the Lightning collapsed to the net but were unable to find the rebound of a Mike Green shot.
Green did not play in the last 18 minutes of the game, and according to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, he was seen limping heavily on his left leg as the team left the arena. At this time, Green's status for tomorrow night's Game 4 is unclear.
Bergenheim and Vincent Lecavalier scored the other Tampa Bay goals, and Roloson made 29 saves as the Lightning won their sixth straight playoff game. In the process they pushed Washington, the Eastern Conference's top seed, to the brink of another early playoff exit.