Caps' Nicklas Backstrom appears closer to return from injury

Hedman, Lightning beat Caps to cut East final deficit to 2-1

NHL: Tampa Bay cut the lead in the series against Washington

Stamkos has three goals and two assists in the series. It's not quite the "14 years of frustration" that Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Alex Ovechkin has endured. As has been the case since late in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the coach was talking about Nicklas Backstrom's game status.

Once again these playoffs, the road teams continue to dominate, and the Tampa Bay Lightning got on the board in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 4-2 win over the Capitals at Capital One Arena. They know what to expect from the Capitals. But when the Lightning stubbed their toe and dropped the first two games at home against the Capitals, for the first time in the playoffs fingers started to point towards Tampa Bay's captain, who was still searching for his first even-strength point of the series. Since regaining the starting job in Game 3 of the first round, the Capitals' Braden Holtby had his first game that could arguably be classified as a dud.

And as they have in other critical junctures of this postseason, the Lightning relied on their best players to rise to the occasion and rescue a series that had been firmly in their opponents' grasp. Currently, the series is 2-1 in favor of the Capitals. The road team is 4-0 in the last four meetings.

"You need everyone chipping in and it seems at times that those guys have gone quiet in games", Cooper said. "We weren't executing the way we normally did in the last couple of games".

"Today was one of those games you feed pucks to Kuch and Stammer, pucks are going to go in", Hedman said.

He had another scare in the third period of Game 3 in Washington after he took a slap shot off his leg.

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Brett Connolly would put Washington on the board after allowing Tampa Bay to score three unanswered. "Maybe they play a little different. We just have to relax a little bit and stay positive".

Lars Eller has done a good job filling in at centre on the second line, but Backstrom is one of the most underrated players in the National Hockey League.

We're dealing with small samples here, but the reality is a playoff series is, at most, seven games and you just can't play poorly for very long.

Before being injured, Backstrom was one of Washington's top players in the post-season with 13 points in 11 games. The average Tampa Bay team over the last three years has held 52 per cent of the shots.

If Barry Trotz and company can repeat their magic over the next few games, we could finally see an Ovechkin-led Capitals team play in a Stanley Cup final.

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