Verizon Center was roaring. Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals’ best player, had tied the game in the final minute to force overtime. As Washington dominated play during the first extra minutes, surely victory in Game 2 and a deadlock in the Eastern Conference semifinals were at hand.
But as happened all too often during the Caps’ star-crossed playoff history, last night’s game didn’t end the way Hollywood would have it. Instead, Tampa Bay star Vincent Lecavalier won it for the Lightning, who took a 2-0 series lead back to Florida where they can wrap up the upset by taking Games 3 and 4 tomorrow and Wednesday.
Amidst that gloom and doom in DC after just the third loss in 10 playoff overtimes since Ovie got to town, there is some good news. First, the last time the Caps trailed 2-0 in a series, they stormed back to win four of the last five games and oust the New York Rangers in the 2009 conference quarters. And second, the guys in red outshot the visitors 37-23 yesterday and outhit them 26-18. Those are winners’ stats.
In fact, Washington dominated the second period, outshooting Tampa Bay 16-3 only to be continually denied by Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, who’s old enough to be the father of Caps defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner.
So now it’s off to Tampa where the Caps were 2-1 this season, 10-3 since Washington became a playoff contender again in 2007-08.
And while none of the current players were with the team back in 2003, Washington did win two of three postseason contests that spring in Tampa over the Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis-led Lightning in the only previous playoff matchup.
There’s also a little harbinger which has to be somewhere in the heads of Vinny and Marty. The visiting Caps won the first two games of those 2003 Eastern quarters only to lose four straight. Will the Lightning, who have started to repeat history, fully return the favor in 2011?
That’s certainly possible even for a Tampa Bay outfit that has won five in a row over Pittsburgh and Washington teams which were superior during the season.
But there is one omninous omen. Sitting in the general manager’s box for the Lightning is Steve Yzerman, the captain of the Detroit Red Wings, who won four straight over Washington during the 1998 Stanley Cup finals, one of two sweeps ever suffered by the Caps.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.