Lightning avenge home losses with Game 3 win at Washington

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They leeched the life from a pulsing Capital One Center, leaving behind only anxiety (and eventually annoyance) for a crowd witnessing its first conference finals across all major sports in two decades.

When former Lightning first round draft pick Brett Connolly scored from the left dot to cut into Tampa Bay's lead at the midpoint of the second period, the home crowd, which had nearly been pleading with its team to do something positive up to that point, got back in the game in a hurry. The Caps didn't let the Lightning get into a rhythm on offense and had them on their heels on defense. When you have a really good team like they do across the way, if you're going to give them open ice to make their plays, that team will kill you - and they did it for two games. Three of those four goals came on the power play. But Tuesday was a different story. And the Lightning, which has been so deadly with the man-advantage in these playoffs, made the Capitals pay for it. Setting up in his office at the left faceoff circle, Stamkos perfectly one-timed a cross-ice pass that Holtby had zero chance on.

Lars Eller has taken Backstrom's place centering the second line with Jakub Vrana and T.J. Hedman assisted on that one too; and then Kucherov fed Hedman for a goal 1:47 later to make it 3-0.

Stamkos opened the scoring with 6:07 remaining in the first period.

But Tampa restored the three-goal lead when Point somehow found a puck in a scrum in front the Washington goal and whacked it through the legs of Stephenson to beat Holtby. "There's something to be said, too, (for) winning games on the road, when you can just kind of hear a pin drop in the crowd, sometimes, which is always a good thing". "They moved the puck well, a lot crisper and a lot faster tonight, I thought". That's probably because, to put it simply, the Golden Knights have looked the most like this year's team of destiny, rallying behind Marc-Andre Fleury and incredible offensive balance to defy the forecasts that maybe had them as a competent, not contending, team in their first year of existence. The three All-Star skaters combined for 7 points (3 goals, four assists) during the 3-goal blitz, which took just 9:44, while Vasilevskiy posted a.947 save percentage including several big saves while the game was still close to prevent the Capitals from gaining any momentum. "And we did", said Stamkos, after the Lightning's 4-2 road victory on Tuesday night reduced their series deficit to 2-1.

"We know it's a critical game", Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had said. Coach Barry Trotz said Backstrom was a game-time decision before each of the games in the conference final.

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The Capitals finally got on the board when Brett Connolly scored at 10:31 of the second.

Victor Hedman scored his first goal of the playoffs less than two minutes later on what amounted to an empty net goal off a feed from Kucherov.

It's the first of two road games for the Bolts, who need to win big Tuesday night.

"It doesn't matter who scores as long as we win, but it's nice to perform at this time of the year", Stamkos said. "We were ready for it and nobody was going to give up ..."

Only five teams in the 31-club National Hockey League had more victories at home than Washington's 28 - and that total represents seven more wins than the Capitals managed on the road. "We've made it a series", said Stamkos.