EVEN STEVEN

The Light­ning has all the an­swers in Game 4 to tie the se­ries: Vasilevskiy? Beast. 2-0 deficit? Gone. Home ice? Back.

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page - TOM JONES tjones@tam­pabay.com

Tampa Bay Light­ning cen­ter Steven Stamkos cel­e­brates his power play goal in Game 4 of the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal against the Washington Cap­i­tals. Tampa Bay also got piv­otal per­for­mances from cen­ter Alex Kil­lorn, who scored the go-ahead goal in the third pe­riod, and goal­tender An­drei Vasilevskiy, who saved 36 shots. The vic­tory ties the se­ries at 2-2 with the road team win­ning ev­ery game so far.

WASHINGTON — And just like that, we’re back to all square.

Wow, this Light­ning team is some­thing. Never dead. Never done.

Just a cou­ple of days ago, Tampa Bay was hang­ing over the edge of the cliff, barely hang­ing on with a cou­ple of fin­ger­tips. As we cued up the dra­matic mu­sic and waited for the long fall to the crash­ing waves below, the Light­ning did what it usu­ally does in such bleak sit­u­a­tions.

Like some hockey ver­sion of In­di­ana Jones, the Light­ning tri­umphantly pulled its way back to safety and is now ea­gerly in search of hockey’s holi­est grail.

The Light­ning beat the Cap­i­tals 4-2 in Thurs­day night’s Game 4 of the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal. That wrapped up back-to-back vic­to­ries in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal to even the best-of-seven se­ries at two games each.

Are you sur­prised?

Now it’s a best of three, with the Light­ing back to hav­ing home-ice ad­van­tage, start­ing with Game 5 on Satur­day night at Amalie Arena.

Here’s the thing: The Light­ning had ab­so­lutely no busi­ness win­ning this game.

“We’re happy the vic­tory. It doesn’t mat­ter how we get it,’’ de­fense­man Vic­tor Hed­man said. “We tied it up 2-2, and that was our goal com­ing into this. We wanted to win both games (in Wash­ing-

ton), and we did that.’’

The only rea­son the Light­ning won Game 4 was be­cause of an ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous per­for­mance by goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy.

“Wow, un­be­liev­able,’’ Hed­man said. “What can you say?’’

You can say that Vasilevskiy ab­so­lutely stole a game for the Light­ning. Some­times that’s what it takes to win a Stan­ley Cup. You need a goalie to steal a game.

Tampa Bay was out­shot 3820 but pulled out the vic­tory be­cause the big Rus­sian goalie stopped nearly every­thing thrown at him.

“Right from the start, we knew (he was on),’’ for­ward Alex Kil­lorn said. “‘Vasy’ saved us in that sec­ond pe­riod when they were kind of com­ing at us. He did a great job keep­ing us in it.’’

At one point, the Light­ning went 21 min­utes with­out a shot. Through two pe­ri­ods, the Light­ning was be­ing out­shot 29-13. The score should have been 10-2 Cap­i­tals. Yet it was tied 2-2.

“When you get this far in the play­offs, you’re play­ing good teams and there are go­ing to be nights like this,’’ Light­ning cap­tain Steven Stamkos said.

“Nights like this” means win­ning a game you should lose. But win­ning be­cause the goalie is in­cred­i­ble.

“He al­ways gives us a chance,’’ Stamkos said.

None of this — from Vasilevskiy’s per­for­mance to the Light­ning win­ning — should come as any great sur­prise. This is what the Light­ning has done in re­cent post­sea­son his­tory. It backs it­self into a cor­ner, los­ing games you never think it will lose, only to crawl out of dan­ger.

Then it wins games just as un­ex­pect­edly. Well, scratch that. It’s al­most ex­pected at this point.

Like this se­ries. The Light­ning lost the first two games at home. Nei­ther game looked even a lit­tle bit com­pet­i­tive. Vasilevskiy looked leaky. The Light­ning at even strength looked short­handed. Every­thing that could have gone wrong pretty much did. All that was left was for the Light­ning to turn on its blinker and turn off at the next exit.

But then it showed up in Washington like a brand new team.

The turn­around starts with Vasilevskiy, who has been noth­ing but bril­liant since the se­ries shifted lo­ca­tions.

Mean­time, the rest of the Light­ning’s best play­ers — names such as Stamkos, Hed­man, Nikita Kucherov and Bray­den Point — have con­tin­ued to be the Light­ning’s best play­ers. Stamkos and Point had first-pe­riod goals as Tampa Bay over­came an early 1-0 deficit.

Then, some­one al­ways comes through when the Light­ning needs it. That some­one Thurs­day was Kil­lorn. His goal with 8:03 left in the third pe­riod broke a 2-2 tie and was the win­ner. Tony Cirelli added an empty-net­ter to cap an im­prob­a­ble vic­tory.

So now the Light­ning returns home with the se­ries tied at 2. It won a game. It stole a game. Call it what­ever you want.

Just don’t be sur­prised by it. It’s what the Light­ning does.

Getty Im­ages

Getty Im­ages

The Light­ning’s Alex Kil­lorn, front, cel­e­brates with team­mate On­drej Palat af­ter scor­ing the even­tual win­ning goal with 8:03 re­main­ing in the third pe­riod.

Getty Im­ages

Light­ning goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy keeps his eye on the puck, some­thing he did of­ten dur­ing Game 4, fin­ish­ing with 36 saves.

As­so­ci­ated Press

The Cap­i­tals’ De­vante Smith-Pelly (25) shoves the Light­ning’s On­drej Palat into Matt Niska­nen dur­ing Game 4.

Getty Im­ages

The Cap­i­tals’ Brooks Or­pik goes air­borne to knock down the puck dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod.

As­so­ci­ated Press

An­drei Vasilevskiy stops a shot by Nick­las Back­strom, who returns af­ter miss­ing four games with a hand in­jury.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.