WASHINGTON — For a group making their first trip to the Eastern Conference Final http://www.seahawksauthorizedshops.com/authentic-byron-maxwell-jersey , the Washington Capitals look right at home.
Even when they are on the road.
The Capitals come home to Capital One Arena for Game 3 on Tuesday night sporting a 2-0 lead over a Tampa Bay Lightning team that won the most games in the NHL during the regular season.
“I can’t wait to go home and play the game,” Alex Ovechkin told the Washington Post after Game 2. “The fans are going to be all over the place and we’ve waited for this moment for a long time. It’s going to be pretty cool and pretty special.”
The Capitals improved to 7-1 on the road in these playoffs with Sunday’s 6-2 win and the Lightning now must win one of two in Washington to send the series back to Tampa Bay.
Road teams that have taken a 2-0 series lead in the NHL conference finals have an 18-1 series record. The Capitals are 3-3 at home this postseason.
“We’re here for a reason. We believe in ourselves and in this group,” Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman told the team’s website. “We’ve got to go out there and win games on the road, and we’ve done that in the playoffs and we’ve got to do it again.”
Washington has outscored the Lightning 10-4 despite playing without center Nicklas Backstrom (right hand injury). Lars Eller moved up to the second line and scored a goal for the second straight game. He has four points in two games.
“I like the playoffs,” Eller, who has 11 points (five goals, six assists) this postseason, told NHL.com. “I embrace when there’s more on the line and the stakes are higher. I always like that, and I think that it brings out in the best in me, and now with Nick out I’ve just been playing more minutes.”
Washington’s defensive play has limited the Lightning to one even-strength goal in the first two games, and the Capitals have succeeded in generating odd-man rushes when they have the puck.
Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and two assists in Game 2, and Ovechkin and Tom Wilson each had a goal and an assist. Braden Holtby made 33 saves for Washington and has stopped 52 of 56 shots in two games Josh Tomlin Cleveland Indians Jersey , winning the goaltending battle with Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Capitals scored twice late in the second period to take a 4-2 lead, including a power-play goal by Kuznetsov with three seconds left, and cruised home.
Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos scored Game 2 goals — Vasilevskiy made 31 saves — for Tampa Bay, which lost two games in a row for the first time this postseason.
“If there is one thing I can sit here and say about these two games, it’s we just played tentative and a little bit slow,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told NHL.com. “We didn’t get 113 points by playing that way. We didn’t win the first two rounds by playing that way. These first two games, that’s the way we’ve played.”
One bright note for the Lightning, the last time they lost two straight home playoff games, in the 2015 conference final against the New York Rangers (Games 4 and 6), they won the series in seven games.
“Sometimes, adversity is gut-check time and let’s see who we really are,” Stamkos told NHL.com. “We haven’t had to really deal with that so far in the playoffs. Now we are Cheap Baker Mayfield Jersey , so we’ll see what type of team we are.”
The text message lit up Troy Mann’s phone the morning after the Capitals eliminated the Penguins with a patchwork lineup featuring five rookies. It came from Barry Trotz.
”Thanks Manner for having all those rookie Caps ready,” Trotz wrote. ”They all played well – you own a piece of this win last night.”
Mann beamed with pride when more than a half-dozen players he coached with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears contributed to the victory that got the Capitals into the Eastern Conference final. Many of those players are still playing key roles for Washington in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights – more than a month after Mann was fired from his job as Hershey’s head coach.
This is a bittersweet time for Mann, who had a hand in the development of Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson and Christian Djoos as coach and was an assistant when Braden Holtby, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson went through Hershey on their way to the NHL. Considering the success of those players and Hershey products Nate Schmidt and Cody Eakin contributing for Vegas, the Cup Final is a validation of Mann’s methods of getting prospects ready for the next level.
”I called Troy Mann the other day and thanked him for producing a lot of good players,” Trotz said. ”All the players he had the last couple of years are all playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Guys who haven’t played a (playoff) game before. They’ve brought some of that winning tradition that they had in Hershey. It’s important for those guys to be a part of it.”
Mann has remained connected to the Capitals’ playoff run by talking to Trotz and Hershey video coach Mike King, who’s in Washington. Amid interviews with other organizations for another AHL job or work as an NHL assistant, he has watched about 80 percent of the Capitals’ games this postseason and can see the elements in players’ games he and assistant Ryan Murphy harped on improving during their four-year tenure.
After giving Vrana some tough love by scratching him in the playoffs a year ago http://www.raidersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-brandon-parker-jersey , Mann notices the 22-year-old winger getting between the faceoff dots to create offense like he asked. He watches Stephenson playing with the consistency that was sometimes lacking in Hershey, which was all part of the plan.
”We talked a lot during our time here about what they needed to do at the NHL level to be successful,” Mann said by phone this week. ”The thing we’ve seen the most with our guys is just the improvement level from year to year and month to month.”
As much as Mann notices the improvement from afar, the players feel it, too, and credit him for giving them the playing time to grow their games in Hershey, a market that expects championships as much as development.
”He just gave us a chance,” said Stephenson, who has seven points in his first Stanley Cup playoffs. ”The type of franchise that Hershey’s been and having so many Calder Cups and things like that, he put a lot of faith in the younger guys and just trusted us. He wanted us to get to the next level more so than you wanted yourself. I really respected him as a coach and liked him as a coach and to have that faith and trust (from) him, it’s helped me a lot.”
His support several years ago helped Eakin become a full-time NHL player who said Mann ”knows how to get the most out of his players.” Schmidt, who had Mann as an assistant and a head coach Alex McGough Color Rush Jersey , appreciated pre-practice skills sessions to work on his hands and stick work and the honesty with which he deals with players.
”I thought he was great,” Schmidt said Saturday. ”You always knew where you stood with him. That’s something that I really respect.”
But after three playoff appearances including a trip to the Calder Cup Final in 2016, missing the postseason this year led to the Capitals not renewing Mann’s contract.
”Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach, and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. ”At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level.”
That stung for Mann, who worked eight of the past nine years in the Capitals’ system, made Hershey his home in that time and believed he did his job.
”I think it’s very difficult for anybody to tell me that I haven’t done my job here,” Mann said. ”I’m very grateful they gave me my first opportunity. As much as I’d love to be the head coach of Hershey next year, the only thing I can hope for now is that other NHL teams are recognizing the work that we did here and that’ll help pay off in the next few weeks here of securing another opportunity.”
Mann was a finalist for one job already and is in demand as Ottawa, Arizona and Colorado all look to fill AHL head-coaching vacancies. He has a big supporter in Trotz, who said recently the Capitals wouldn’t be Eastern Conference champions without Mann and Murphy helping develop Stephenson http://www.vikingsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-kendall-wright-jersey , Vrana, Djoos, Nathan Walker, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey.
”They did a really good job,” Trotz said. ”They’ve developed well, and they’ve been a big part of it.”
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