The Washington Capitals were, for the second-consecutive season, were the NHL's Eastern Conference regular season champions, and for the second-consecutive season, they will not fulfill that promise. The Caps were just out-worked in every facet by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have swept the Capitals with a 5-3 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight, and will move on to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2004, when they won the Stanley Cup. The Boston Bruins are one game away from making it a Boston-Tampa Eastern Final. The Capitals become the first #1 seed since this playoff format was adopted in 1994 to be swept out in the first two rounds.
Ryan Malone got another goal without taking a shot to open up Game 4, as Vincent Lecavalier threw a centering pass in front, and it went off the skate of Malone and past Michal Neuvirth at 12:37. It was Malone's third of the playoffs and second of the series, while Lecavalier got his series-leading sixth point in four games, and 12 points in the playoffs.
A fluky goal got Washington even, when Alexander Ovechkin drilled a shot that went off the pads of Dwayne Roloson, then ricocheted off of Marco Sturm, went over the top of Roloson, popped up in the air and off of his back to tie it 1-1 at 18:30, in what had to be one of the strangest goals of the playoffs. It was Sturm's first goal of the post-season, and took back what had been an all-Tampa game from Malone's goal till then.
The period was personified by dumb penalties that led to goals. Both clubs are 1-for-2 on the power play. Alexander Ovechkin took a terrible charging penalty that led to the Malone goal, while a Nate Thompson goaltender interference set up the Sturm tally. Sean Bergenheim is emerging as a John Druce-esque unsung playoff hero. Bergenheim's sixth and seventh goals in the second period has him half-way to Druce's 14 goals for the Washington Capitals in 1990.
Bergenheim's line, with Dominic Moore and Steve Downie (The DMB Line?) has put up terrific numbers in the post-season, as Downie now has nine assists. Both linemates set up Bergenheim for a wrister at 4:41 to make it 2-1 Lightning. Another Bergenheim wrister from Moore at 12:34 beat Michal Neuvirth to put Tampa Bay up 3-1 at 12:34. Sometimes an entire line can take flight for a playoff season, reminiscent of the A Line in New Jersey during the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Capitals got one back from a somewhat unlikely source. John Erskine ripped an unassisted wrist-shot past Dwayne Roloson at 13:40. The Lightning had a late-period power play chance to maybe finish the Caps for good, or at least make the distance more difficult, but the Capitals killed it off.
The Lightning put it away early on in the third period when Marco Sturm took an ill-advised goaltender interference penalties, the third of the game and second on the Capitals. Marc-Andre Bergeron is often considered a one-dimensional player, but that one dimension is his lethal slapper. He let one go that beat Michal Neuvirth to give Tampa their second power play goal of the game and, more importantly, a 4-2 lead. Martin St. Louis added a wicked snipe of a shot that just flat out beat Neuvirth at 16:52. It was one of those "This is over, boys" kind of shots. And, despite a John Carlson goal about a minute later at 17:54, it was. Tampa to round three with a 5-3 win.