Lightning finding it easier on the road
Washington, DC (SPECIAL TO SPORTS TALK FLORIDA)- Road sites in the National Hockey League are famed for harsh welcomes to the visitors. However, you would not guess that watching the Eastern Conference Finals. The Washington Capitals lead the Tampa Bay Lightning two games to one and the road team has won every game played to this point.
To make things more puzzling, none of the games have been terribly close. Washington led 4-0 over Tampa in game one before the Lightning made the score look close at 4-2 and the Caps rattled off five straight goals in game two for a 6-2 thrashing. On Washington’s home ice, The Lightning rode a hot goalie and smart offense to a convincing 4-1 victory that Washington made 4-2 in the final minutes.
Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos was asked about it in Wednesday’s media availability. “For whatever reason, there’s more distractions this time of the year. A lot of people have friends and family coming down and ticket requests. Sometimes there’s that added pressure of playing at home and wanting to do good things in front of your fans. You get on the road and you’re just with the guys. And you just go out there and play simple hockey, and I think there’s something to be said of winning games on the road where you can hear a pin drop in the crowd.”
Both teams have silenced plenty of road crowds. Tampa is 4-1 in road playoff games this year. Their only loss was game three of the New Jersey series. And it took a heroic effort from Cory Schneider to keep Tampa from winning that game. Washington is 7-1 in road buildings this year. Their only loss was in game four of their series with Pittsburgh. More surprising, the Capitals are 3-4 at home this postseason. Capitals’ Head Coach Barry Trotz quipped after losing game three: “Well just pretend you’re on the road when playing at home then.”
Regardless of the records, the teams will be on equal rest entering game four tonight in Capital One Arena. Neither team skated on Wednesday. Both will skate on Thursday morning and be ready for the turning point game of the series. A Lightning victory guarantees a sixth game. A Capital victory gives Washington a chance at clinching the Prince of Wales Trophy at Amalie Arena.
For their part, the Lightning are not too concerned. They know what to expect from the Capitals. Former Rangers Ryan Callahan and J.T. Miller have their share of experience skating against Washington. In Miller’s opinion, not much is different about this iteration of the Capitals.
“They have two lines that check really hard and can move the puck well. Then you have some guys up front who can hurt you if you don’t take care of the puck. The big thing is to stay out of the box. They have guys who can shoot and make plays. It’s pretty much been the same playing them.”
The teams know what to expect and what’s at stake. Puck drops at Capital One Arena at 8pm Eastern.