They can not fall behind 2-0 in this series going to Washington if they want a chance, and their first period in Game 2 will be the determining factor. On Sunday, there were plenty of moments when it might have been understandable if Washington had allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning back into the series. But instead of resting on the accomplishment and acting like "second-round champions", the Capitals played like a team with designs on the Stanley Cup in a 4-2 trouncing of Tampa in Game 1 of the East finals on Friday night.
For the Lightning, that was without a doubt the worst game they played this postseason.
"We didn't panic. Just stayed to the system and played the right way", Ovechkin said. "For some reason for two games, that's the way we've played". "I didn't think we were going to have a hangover. And it did tonight".
Is this game a must win situation for the Lightning? In fact Cooper is 8-1 in the last 9 games in Game 2's. "Big goal for us". "But anytime you give up a goal at the end of the period, it gives momentum to the other team". At the 2:54 mark of overtime, he fired a wrist shot that caromed off the left post.
"I think Coach wants us to be ready to play tonight", said Lightning center Yanni Gourde.
"You're on the road and it's us against them, and this group has really bonded", coach Barry Trotz said. "The crowd was kind of stunned a little bit". The game marked the third time this postseason and second time already this series he's given up at least four goals, all of which have been losses.
The call on Wilson erased the good fortune the Capitals had created to start the game. They've had players like Eller rise to the occasion with Backstrom out.
Lady Vols host NCAA Regional for 14th straight season
They broke a nine-game losing streak with a pair of wins over Utah in their final weekend of play. That was also the last time a Pac-12 school played in the national championship game.
Tampa Bay benefited early from a couple of questionable penalties - Wilson for goaltender interference and T.J. Oshie for high-sticking Victor Hedman, when the Tampa Bay defenceman actually was struck by the puck - to score twice in just over three minutes on the power play for a 2-1 lead. There was no hangover from advancing past the second round to for the first time in 20 years, and they carried every ounce of momentum into Tampa for a great performance. "Everybody was all in, and everybody was paying the price".
If the Capitals can get Nicklas Backstrom back, and if Andre Burakovsky can shake off his rust, the Capitals can find themselves in a better position then perhaps they themselves never expected going into Game 3.
"We're in the conference final".
The days of Washington trying to outscore its opponents by playing a firebrand style of pond hockey appear to be over. They earned their breaks.
"He's our guy. The chances we're giving up, it's that five-man unit in front of him", Cooper said. "You can play the ideal game and still not win, but at least you give your chance to win. That gives you results".
It didn't matter that Tampa Bay had a history of bouncing back after Game 1 losses, sporting an impressive 10-3 record before its crushing 6-2 loss Sunday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Capitals. They simply were not good enough and Nikita Kucherov said it best, they owe their fans a much better performance. Not so against the Capitals.