WASHINGTON — The Capitals are comfortable with the uncomfortable. Staring down elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals didn’t blink and responded with a decisive and dominant 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There will be a game seven in their NHL Eastern Conference Final Series on Wednesday in Tampa, and the Capitals probably would not want it any other way. This team seems to be at its best when things look their worst.
To start the playoffs, the Capitals lost two home games to the Blue Jackets before getting it right. The Capitals lost the first game at home against the Penguins, but then turned years of playoff doubt into belief by winning the series in six games and claiming the decisive game in Pittsburgh.
There was real momentum as the Capitals started the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa and then it almost got giddy when the Capitals won the first two games of the series, also in Tampa. A series sweep was possible and would have been nice, but it is just not the way things go for this Capitals team.
The Caps did not lose three straight games to the Lightning on purpose. In fact, in those three losses that put them on the brink of elimination, the Capitals outshot the Lightning 106-65. The Caps just were not as sharp as they needed to be when it mattered most.
With no margin of error in Game 6, the Capitals were at their best. Alex Ovechkin did not have a point, but set the tone with his physical play. The Capitals outhit the Lightning 39-19 and goaltender Braden Holtby recorded his first shutout of the postseason.
“I have been doing this for a while,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. “I don’t think there is a team I have ever had that I would want to go into a game seven with. This team has done a lot of special things and continues to grow. What an opportunity to go into game seven in Tampa.”
To advance to their first Stanley Cup Final in twenty years, the Capitals will have to win Wednesday on the road. It is the hard way, but for the Capitals that has been the right way.