The Tampa Bay Lightning completed a shock 4-0 sweep of Eastern top seeds Washington on Wednesday, while Boston and San Jose each took 3-0 series leads to move one win away from reaching the Conference finals.
The Lightning, playing in the postseason for the first time in four years, beat the Caps 5-3 to record their seventh consecutive win and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Meanwhile, Boston defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 and San Jose captured a 4-3 overtime triumph over the Detroit Red Wings to leave them in pole position to advance to the finals.
In Tampa, the home side took the lead through Ryan Malone’s power-play goal at 12:37 of the first, but Washington’s Marco Strum tied the score with 90 seconds left in the period.
Sean Bergenheim scored twice to give the Bolts a two-goal cushion in the second before John Erskine trimmed the lead to 3-2 at 13:40 in the period.
Tampa Bay’s Marc-Andre Bergeron and Martin St Louis scored in the third, while Washington’s John Carlson also tallied.
It was yet another post-season disaster for Washington, who have won four consecutive Southeast Division titles, but failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs since 1998.
“We wanted to win, they wanted to win, and eventually someone had to lose,” Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin told reporters. “I don’t know what to say right now.”
In Boston, the Bruins are one step away from erasing last season’s playoff collapse.
The Bruins held the same advantage in last season’s second round series against Philadelphia before the Flyers rallied to win four in a row and eliminate Boston.
“We had confidence last year, if anything overconfidence,” Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas said. “We know they never give up, they’re a team that competes until the end, so we’re going to have to take that fourth game, they’re not going to give it to us.”
Thomas, who made 52 saves in Monday’s overtime win, had another outstanding performance with 37 stops as the Bruins stormed to a 4-0 lead in the second period.
Zdeno Chara and David Krejci put the Bruins 2-0 up with just over a minute on the clock before Daniel Paille and Nathan Horton scored in the second period to make the game safe.
Andrej Meszaros scored Philadelphia’s only goal late in the second and Chara scored his second of the game in the final minutes of the third period.
Philadelphia’s goaltending struggles in the postseason continued, as Sergei Bobrovsky replaced Brian Boucher in net during the second period.
Game 4 is today in Boston.
In Detroit, Devin Setoguchi netted the game-winning wrist shot to finish off his hat-trick at 9:21 in overtime and push the Red Wings to the brink of elimination.
Setoguchi scored the game’s opening goal in the first period and tied the score 2-2 in the second before Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk gave the home side a 3-2 edge at 18:17 in the second.
Dan Boyle scored the game-tying goal with just 4:08 left in regulation for the Sharks, who won their second overtime game of the series.
Nicklas Lidstrom and Patrick Eaves also netted goals for the Red Wings, who had 34 saves from goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Antti Niemi stopped 38 shots for the Sharks, who will have a chance to complete the sweep in Game Four today in Detroit.