WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals spent the night overcoming the efforts of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but when the two teams moved into overtime, the Capitals found they could not overcome back-to-back penalties on Jaromir Jagr and Ken Klee.
Jagr and Klee, two of Washington's best players, were called for penalties within a minute of each other, giving the Lightning a five-on-three power play that it converted into a 4-3 victory, 2:29 into the extra period.
Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig, who had 24 saves, stopped back-to-back shots, but could not catch the third one by Vincent Lecavalier, who scored twice last night to help the Lightning to their first victory in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
"I was very surprised to get a five-on-three," said Lecavalier. "But it's the same game. You can't just go to overtime and not call anything. I think they made two good calls and it paid off for us."
Washington now leads the series, 2-1, with Game 4 at MCI Center tonight at 7.
"He [the referee] made the calls he thought he needed to make and that's it," said Klee, who was called for throwing an elbow at a Tampa player's head. "No matter what happened, we still have to be ready to play again [tonight]."
The Capitals did not argue with the calls or look for excuses.
"It's always tough to lose in overtime," said Caps captain Steve Konowalchuk. "And it's frustrating to get a five-on-three called on you. You don't want to lose like that. But we won't complain. Penalties are part of the game. Maybe if we'd played a little better, we wouldn't have been in that situation."
It was a tough loss for the Capitals, who had fought back from three deficits to force the overtime. Dainius Zubrus, who has been getting better and better as the season has gone on, scored twice on individual efforts and could have had another goal for the memory book, had he been able to put away a shootout opportunity in the opening period.
But it was the Lightning, down 0-2 before this game and knowing it had not won in Washington in 11 previous games dating to 1998, which found a way to win.
Lightning coach John Tortorella has been preaching calmness to his young team. Telling them that despite their No. 3 seed, that it is the No. 6-seeded Capitals who have all the pressure because they have become the favorites.
During Game 2, Tortorella spent a lot time experimenting with different-line combinations. Sounding like an Italian cook making spaghetti, he said, "I was just throwing lines together, looking for anything that would stick to the wall."
What he came up with was Lecavalier, Vaclav Prospal and Martin St. Louis. And they stuck it to the Capitals pretty good. Lecavalier (two goals), Prospal (one goal, one assist) and St. Louis (one goal, two assists) accounted for all four of the Tampa Bay goals.
"They're back in this series," said Washington coach Bruce Cassidy. "They've got life. They've been resilient all year and I think tomorrow is going to be a great hockey game."
Though last night's game didn't have the end result Washington was looking for, the Capitals managed to overcome their own slow start and consequential mistakes and by the third period were playing very tight, sound hockey.
No one knew if St. Louis' goal with 8:47 to play would be the game-winner, and for a while it looked like it could be, as Tampa goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (16 saves) played much more to form.
But the Capitals kept coming. And with 2:56 left, Jagr swept around the back of the Tampa net and delivered a pass to Sergei Gonchar, just as Tampa's Pavel Kubina elbowed his jaw. The blow leveled Jagr, but Brendan Witt's shot found the back of the net for a 3-3 tie that sent the game to overtime.
Tampa Bay 1 1 1 1 - 4
Washington 1 1 1 0 - 3
First period - 1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 1 (St. Louis), 5:46. 2, Washington, Zubrus 1 (Berezin, Nylander), 14:21 (pp). Penalties - Washington bench, served by Miller (too many men), 10:34; Clymer, TB (roughing), 14:00. Second period - 3, Tampa Bay, Prospal 2 (St. Louis, Boyle), 4:44. 4, Washington, Zubrus 2 (Jagr, Johansson), 10:25. Penalties - Dingman, TB (boarding), 5:09; Prospal, TB (cross-checking), 11:04; Kubina, TB (high-sticking), 20:00. Third period - 5, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 1 (Prospal), 11:13. 6, Washington, Witt 1 (Jagr, Gonchar), 17:04. Penalty-Nylander, Was (holding), 1:33. Overtime-7, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 2 (Boyle, Andreychuk), 2:29 (pp). Penalties - Jagr, Was (roughing), 1:18; Klee, Was (elbowing), 2:12. Shots on goal - Tampa Bay 8-8-9-3-28. Washington 6-6-7-0-19. Missed penalty shot-Zubrus, Was, 11:34 first. Power-play opportunities - Tampa Bay 1 of 3; Washington 1 of 4. Goalies - Tampa Bay, Khabibulin 1-2 (19 shots-16 saves). Washington, Kolzig 2-1 (28-24). A - 17,279 (18,277). T-2:40.