What a difference a few days make.
The Tampa Bay Lightning is back in the hunt for a coveted spot in the National Hockey League finals after it held off the Washington Capitals on Thursday and tied the series at two games each. Just a few days ago, most Lightning fans had given up their team for dead after the Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. What is even more impressive is that Tampa Bay was able to rattle off these two consecutive wins on the road at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Thursday’s 4-2 win by the Lightning sends the series back to Tampa for a Saturday clash at Amalie Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15 pm. What is left is essentially a best-of-three series with the winner getting the honor of heading to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the winner of the Winnipeg Jets and Las Vegas Golden Knights series. The Golden Knights currently lead that series 2-1 with the next game set to take place on Friday in Las Vegas.
The Lightning was led by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy who turned in one of the most dominant performances of the series. The Caps outshot Tampa Bay 38-20 but the Lightning was still able to pull out the victory in large part because of the Russian goalie’s presence in the net.
Long-time fans of the Lightning should not be surprised about this last gasp by their hometown team. The team has an infamous history of getting down early in a series, only to come storming back on fire and ready to compete. And the Lightning did it again on Thursday, despite the extra bump in energy given to the Capitals when their star center, Nicklas Backstrom, returned to the ice after suffering a hand injury on May 5, causing him to miss four playoff games. Backstrom had four shots on goal, yet it was not enough to send his team to victory.