The Lightning can level the series 2-2 with another win in D.C. on Thursday.
Tampa Bay did just that, capitalizing on a pair of power-play opportunities and then never looking back in Tuesday's 4-2 victory.
"We checked. That was it", he said. Here were the most important.
Both teams entered the game red-hot on the power play, and the Lightning's unsafe extra-man unit continued its terrorizing ways.
Nikita Kucherov - The Lightning sniper recorded a goal and an assist in Game Three, giving him 16 points (7 G, 9 A) in 13 playoff games. It wasn't ideal, but the Lightning began to make it up to Vasilevskiy for hanging him out to dry on so many odd-man rushes in Games 1 and 2 by improving their defensive-zone play.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby stopped 19 shots. "We've made it a series", said Stamkos. "They've got a ton of experience and when their backs have been against the wall, they've shown a propensity to fight back".
Victor Hedman scored his first goal of the playoffs less than two minutes later on what amounted to an empty net goal off a feed from Kucherov.
They were damn near mirror images, cannonballs with silencers fixed to the muzzles, scorched from opposite faceoff circles into nothing but net.
Vasilevskiy came pretty close to saving the Lightning's season with his 36-save, 4-2 win that prevented them from going down three games to none. "We just play our game". "You've got to make them chase the game". Part of it was Vasilevskiy, who made the big saves when he needed to, but the bigger difference was that the Lightning was not constantly putting their goalie in a position to bail them out of trouble. That was big for us. It was the first time this postseason that he has surrendered four goals in a game.
The Caps, in turn, fed off the energy and generated a few waves of scoring chances that got the crowd even more fired up. The Caps didn't steal, but dominated both road games.
But the Lightning penalty kill, a touch-and-go subject all season for the Bolts, came up with its biggest kill of the series to date. "When you have a guy on the opposite side who can shoot it like Kuch, they've got to respect one guy and that's going to leave someone open". "Like I said, hes been outstanding for us all year, and he was great tonight". The 22-year-old has now put together back-to-back multi-point efforts. Point picked up an assist on Steven Stamkos' power-play goal in the first period. Excelon and Pepco stepped up for Tuesday night's Game 3, as they did for Nationals playoff games last fall.
Puck drops on the second period. There is deadline acquisition J.T. Miller, patrolling the goal line and mopping up loose change.
Tampa Bay did not look good in in opening the Eastern Conference finals by getting swept at home but the team rose to the occasion in game three to avoid an 0-3 hole.
As Cooper had said of Games 1 and 2: "It's 2-on-1 after 2-on-1". But you have to make adjustments at some point to give your team what you feel is it's best chance to succeed. "It just happened to work out tonight".
The Lightning had the third best power play during the regular season.
The Caps knew they had let their window to grasp total control of the game, and possibly the series, close on them.