Before his team took off for Washington, D.C. on Monday, Cooper told the reporters assembled at the jet center his team needed to play with the lead for once in the series.
Which power-play blast did Cooper like better?
"They came in here, they're desperate and they played that way", said Capitals coach Barry Trotz. The starting time for each Capitals home game was pushed back an hour to 8 PM, increasing the likelihood that the final horn would blow after Metro closed its doors at 11:30 PM. Lars Eller stupidly closed his hand on the puck. Hedman assisted on that one too; and then Kucherov fed Hedman for a goal 1:47 later to make it 3-0.
Stamkos ripped a power-play goal at 13:53 of the first period, on an assist from Victor Hedman. During last year's playoff series between the Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, many fans were forced to leave Game 2 when it was tied 3-3 in overtime because metro service was ending soon.
"We've thought about different things, but for me and our staff, we don't feel it's a personnel issue with how things are going", Cooper said.
The Caps knew they had let their window to grasp total control of the game, and possibly the series, close on them. That's probably because, to put it simply, the Golden Knights have looked the most like this year's team of destiny, rallying behind Marc-Andre Fleury and incredible offensive balance to defy the forecasts that maybe had them as a competent, not contending, team in their first year of existence.
As clinically as Tampa Bay eliminated New Jersey and Boston in five games apiece, Washington is rolling behind the scoring of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and the goaltending of Braden Holtby, who has stopped 52 of 56 shots through two games.
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It wasn't ideal, but it was a more complete effort from Tampa Bay, which jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Brett Connolly answered for Washington in the second. The goals were mirror images of each other, with Stamkos blasting a one-timer from the left side and Kucherov from the right.
This isn't to say the Caps played poorly and still won in those games because of fluky goals.
And certainly it had to be a relief that the Lightning made a few adjustments, and got the result they've been seeking.
Cooper was adamant ahead of Game 3 there was no need for personnel changes, saying this group is the one that got the Lightning to this far and they would be the one to reverse the team's fortunes in the series. The Lightning's backbreaker goals were in the second period, especially the two in the first 3:37, but the long stretch where they kept Washington scoreless set the tone. "For us to get two goals today and shut them down on the PK was big". "We were ready for it and nobody was going to give up ..." Of the 41 previous times a team lost the first two games in the conference finals, 39 went on to lose the series - including every team that lost its first two at home.
"Power play make everything". "We've made it a series", said Stamkos.
The Lightning had the third best power play during the regular season.