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Game 3 Recap: Lightning Power Play Strikes Back, Lifts Tampa 4-2

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The Washington Capitals fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Tuesday night, giving up two power play goals to drop Game 3 at Capital One Arena.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals - Game Three Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals played with electricity too many times, and eventually got shocked by the Lightning power play. That, plus bad zone entries, spelled the Caps’ downfall in this one.

Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals still lead the series, and Evgeny Kuznetsov is still red hot. Yay, da?

Minus: The Capitals took six penalties in Game 3, and the Lightning struck on two of them, making the difference in the contest.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. The Capitals stunned (most of the hockey) world by taking Games 1 and 2 in Tampa Bay to jump out to a 2-0 series lead over the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning. Could they bring that rapscallion magic back to the friendly red confines of Washington?

2. With Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup again with a banged up hand (he was seen signing autographs earlier today at Kettler with his hockey glove still on), the Capitals would once again have to go without their best two-way forward. Would the Lightning apply the barometric pressure?

3. Tampa Bay would not be embarrassed a third time, coming out swinging like bored spouses. This fire manifested itself first in a nasty boarding penalty by Anton Stralman. Stralman launched himself up and into the shoulders of Tom Wilson. Wilson went down in a heap and retreated to the locker room, but would return in the period relatively unscathed and presumably still handsome.

4. Late in the first frame, Braden Holtby took a tripping penalty (you read that right), and on the ensuing power play, Steven Stamkos made himself good and comfortable in Ovi’s Office, putting his feet up on the desk to the tune of a one-timer from the circle to make it 1-0 Lightning.

5. The second period kicked off with more of the same, but, worse. Just two minutes into the frame, also on the power play, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov blasted a one-timer of his own from the right circle to lift the Bolts to a 2-0 lead.

Asked about Tampa’s two power play goals, Alex Ovechkin said, “If we’re going to play like that, they’re going to use it. We didn’t score, they score.”

6. And just two minutes later, with the wounds still fresh and the Lightning still thundering, Tampa’s Victor Hedman took a perfect pass from Kucherov in the high slot and kindly gave it directions to the back of the net, giving the Bolts a 3-0 lead in the process.

7. BUT! Washington was not going to go down without so much as a curmudgeonly guffaw! Brett Connolly, aka Brett The Threat, got one back for the Capitals after a failed Tampa clearance. The Con Man’s marker made it 3-1.

8. But Tampa firmly replied, You Shall Not Pass, as Brayden Point snuck one past Braden Holtby before the second buzzer to take the air out of the building and put the Lightning back up by three, 4-1 after forty.

9. The Capitals gave the comeback their best college try in the third period, pounding tons of shots on Tampa. With Holtby pulled in the final minutes, Evgeny Kuznetsov broke through, bringing Washington back within two, 4-2. But it wouldn’t be enough, and Tampa would walk away 4-2 winners in Game 3.

I asked John Carlson about Tampa’s power play, and if the fact that Stamkos’ goal and Kucherov’s goal look so similar to what the Caps try to do gives Washington a tactical insight into how to stop it. Carlson demurred, saying “Every power play is deadly. Obviously those are two of the best players in the league.” But he conceded, “We’ll have to do a little bit better job, and come back with a different plan for the PK next game.”

10. The main story in this one was penalties. Namely, Washington’s propensity to take way the hell too many of them. With Tampa’s deadly power play, the Capitals would be wise not too play with, fire, quite so much.

Ovechkin told reporters after the game, with a wry smile, “Nobody can say it’s going to be easy.” Then, more seriously, he added, “Nobody going to give up.”

Well, the Eastern Conference Finals will not result in a sweep. The Capitals still hold court, and will get back at it on Thursday night at Capital One Arena looking to push the Lightning to the brink.

Game highlights: