Thu, May 05, 2011 - Page 19 News List

NHL: Lightning push Capitals to brink

Reuters, TAMPA, FLORIDA

Fans take turns hurling snowballs at an effigy of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals in Tampa, Florida, on May 3.

Photo: AFP

Tampa Bay struck twice in the third period to clinch a 4-3 win over Washington that pushed the top-seeded Capitals to the brink of elimination from the NHL playoffs on Tuesday, while Vancouver beat Nashville 3-2 to go a game up in their series.

Trailing 3-2 in the third period, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos scored at 5:23 to tie the score before Ryan Malone put them ahead just 24 seconds later.

The win gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven semi-final series.

“We can’t let up. You see in the Vancouver series [against Chicago] what happens when you do,” Stamkos told reporters.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Canucks went 3-0 down in the series before prevailing in Game 7.

“Games 4 and 5 were blowouts for Chicago and they got the momentum right back in the series. We can’t make that mistake,” Stamkos said.

Washington clinched their fourth consecutive Southeast Division title during the regular season, but have not advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs since 1998.

Washington twice led in the second period where they got three goals from Mike Knuble, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin.

Tampa Bay’s Sean Bergenheim scored the opening goal in the first and Vincent Lecavalier added another at 11:51 in the second to level the score 2-2 for the Lightning, who are relishing their first post-season appearance in four years.

Western Conference top seed Vancouver avoided a second -successive overtime rally from the Nashville Predators and held on for a 3-2 victory that put them back in front in the series.

Ryan Kesler scored twice, including the game-winner on a power play at 10:45 in overtime.

Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo made 28 saves, while fellow Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne had 44.

David Legwand netted in the first period to give the Predators a 1-0 lead before Kesler tied the game 1-1 in the second and Chris Higgins gave the Canucks a 2-1 edge at 3:03 in the third.

Nashville’s Joel Ward scored on a wrap-around shot with 6:42 left in regulation to force overtime.

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