Lightning scores first, rolls past Caps, 3-1, to even series

St. Louis scores two goals as Washington drops 2nd in a row at MCI Center

April 17, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - First goal wins.

Through three games, that had been the story of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. It put a premium on the first goal in Game 4 last night.

And once Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis scored it 11:55 into the second period, the Lightning was on its way to a 3-1 victory that evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

"It seems to be the secret to success," said Washington coach Bruce Cassidy.

Said Caps wing Jaromir Jagr: "They score the first goal again. So much energy goes with the first goal. It's only one, but then you can get loose and get smarter. We tied it, but they scored right away again."

It was the Lightning's second goal, also by St. Louis, that sapped what was left of the Caps' confidence.

Washington returns to Tampa Bay for Game 5 tomorrow night. Game 6 is back at MCI Center on Sunday.

"Obviously we're really disappointed," said Caps goalie Olie Kolzig (22 saves). "They were a frustrated group. We were suffocating them. Now, they've reversed the challenge. Now, it's a best-of-three series and we can't be the team with the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look."

The Caps were up 2-0 in the series when it returned to Washington this week. And they were feeling good because not only had they won in Tampa Bay, they also had won in dominating style, shutting down the Lightning's top scorers - Vaclav Prospal, Vincent Lecavalier and St. Louis.

But when the Lightning took the ice here for Game 3 on Tuesday night, those three shooters were united on one line and the Caps could not stop them, as they produced all four goals and seven total points in Tampa's 4-3 overtime victory.

"You've got to give this team some credit," said Tampa Bay forward Dave Andreychuk. "I've talked about it before. The resiliency that we've had all year long is that when our backs have been against the wall, we've responded. Tonight, I think we showed a lot of discipline. That's something we didn't do in [Games] 1 and 2."

They won Game 3 against one of the best checking lines in the NHL - Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern and Mike Grier - and Cassidy said he thought the performance was an aberration.

Still, during that game he put Peter Bondra - who scored the Caps' only goal last night -in place of Grier, to use his speed, and Bondra was still taking shifts there in Game 4. After a while, Prospal, Lecavalier and St. Louis broke out of the Caps' grasp and continued to express themselves with three more goals.

"Halpern, Calle [Johansson], [Brendan] Witt, they have to accept the challenge and be better," Cassidy said. "They're a shutdown line. I hope they're up to the challenge. These are the playoffs. This is where reputations are made."

St. Louis' first goal came when he outskated Witt; his second came while the Caps were on a power play two minutes later. Washington turned the puck over and he and Andreychuk broke away on the counterattack.

Kolzig didn't have a chance, as Andreychuk held the puck and then passed cross-ice to St. Louis for the short-handed goal.

"I said it would be a long series," said Caps owner Ted Leonsis. "I'd say [Tampa] has taken the advantage."

Last night, the final blow came just 1:24 into the third period, when the Caps, for the second night in a row, saw a lost faceoff in their own zone turned into a goal. This time, it was an open Lecavalier who sprinted in to score.

"I think we just played the same way they played in Tampa," said Jagr, who was battered, cut and bruised last night. "The last two games they played hockey and we didn't."

Tampa Bay 0 2 1 - 3

Washington 0 1 0 - 1

First period - None. Penalties - None.

Second period - 1, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 2 (Sarich, Neckar), 11:55. 2, Washington, Bondra 3 (Doig), 15:39. 3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 3 (Andreychuk), 17:40 (sh). Penalties - Bondra, Was, double minor (high-sticking), :39; Doig, Was (tripping), 8:02; Svitov, TB (tripping), 16:22.

Third period - 4, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 3 (Cullimore), 1:24. Penalties - Svitov, TB (roughing), 6:18; Tampa Bay bench, served by Svitov (too many men), 9:58; Nylander, Was (holding stick), 11:36; Nylander, Was (holding stick), 15:42; Bondra, Was (high-sticking), 17:23.

Shots on goal - Tampa Bay 7-10-8-25. Washington 8-8-7-23. Power-play opportunities - Tampa Bay 0 of 6; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies - Tampa Bay, Khabibulin 2-2 (23 shots-22 saves). Washington, Kolzig 2-2 (25-22). A - 15,576 (18,277). T - 2:17.

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