The Tampa Bay Lightning struck down the Washington Capitals 4-2 in a physical Eastern Conference semi-final series opener on Friday, while San Jose edged Detroit 2-1 in overtime in their Western opener.
Following an early goal by Tampa Bay’s Sean Bergenheim, the Capitals took control, drawing level before the end of the first through Alexander Semin and taking the lead early in the second period through Eric Fehr.
Steve Downie’s pass deflected off the stick of Washington’s Scott Hannan late in the second period to tie it at 2-2 and the Lightning regained the lead on Steve -Stamkos’ power-play goal just before the intermission.
The Lightning tightened up defensively in the third period and limited the Capitals to just five shots before Dominic Moore scored into an empty net in the final minute to complete the scoring.
“It was definitely good to get that first game,” Tampa Bay captain Vinny Lecavalier said. “It could have went either way tonight.”
Tampa Bay netminder Dwayne Roloson held the Lightning close, making 21 of his 26 saves in the opening two periods.
“I think we just did what we’ve been doing all playoffs,” Stamkos said. “When we get the lead, we obviously want to maintain it and we’ve been able to do that so far, but they had a lot of good chances and they’ve got a lot of firepower on that team.”
“We had a couple of good bounces tonight, Rollie [Roloson] made some big saves when he had to and it was a good team effort,” he said.
Tampa Bay’s Simon Gagne left the game after his head bounced off the ice on a check by Hannan, while defenseman Pavel Kubina was also unable to finish the game owing to a head injury.
Washington defenseman John Carlson suffered a leg injury in the second period and played just one shift in the third.
“I thought we were in control of the game until the Downie goal, and that gave them life,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But you can’t play river hockey. This wasn’t the way we play. It was reverting back to an older day.”
In San Jose, Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom scored on a slapshot midway through the first period and Detroit tried to nurse the one-goal lead through the remainder their Western Conference semi-final opener.
San Jose outshot Detroit by a two-to-one margin over the final two periods and Joe Pavelski scored the tying goal midway through the third period.
In overtime, Benn Ferriero scored to seal the win for the Sharks.