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NHL playoff roundup

Lightning push Capitals to brink

Associated Press / May 4, 2011

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In an instant, the top-seeded Washington Capitals went from climbing back into the Eastern Conference semifinals to the brink of elimination against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone scored 24 seconds apart in the third period and the fifth-seeded Lightning beat the reeling Capitals, 4-3, to take a commanding 3-0 series lead last night in Tampa.

Tampa Bay, which won the first two games of the best-of-seven matchup on the road, can advance to the conference finals with a victory at home tonight in Game 4.

“This team is a good team. It’s going to be hard to win four games,’’ Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis said of the struggling Capitals.

Vincent Lecavalier and Sean Bergenheim also scored for the Lightning, whose sixth straight postseason win leaves them one victory away from reaching the East finals for the first time since Tampa Bay won its only Stanley Cup title in 2004. The Lightning haven’t lost since falling into a 3-1 hole against Pittsburgh in the first round.

“I think all year we’ve been pretty resilient,’’ St. Louis said, “and I always feel like we give ourselves a chance.’’

Alex Ovechkin had a power-play goal and an assist for Washington, which led, 3-2, heading into third period after he, Mike Knuble and John Carlson scored in the second.

The momentum shifted suddenly on Stamkos’s fourth goal of the playoffs. The sellout crowd of 20,613 had barely stopped celebrating when Malone — camped to the right of Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth — directed Nate Thompson’s pass into the left corner of the net for a 4-3 lead with 14:13 remaining.

Canucks 3, Predators 2 — Ryan Kesler scored his second power-play goal at 10:45 of overtime, and Vancouver beat host Nashville to grab a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.

Fans in the sellout crowd reacted angrily, throwing towels and other debris onto the ice.

Kesler scored his first two goals of the postseason and had an assist, and Chris Higgins had a goal for Vancouver. The Canucks, the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the regular season, bounced back from a 2-1, double-overtime loss in Game 2 and regained home-ice advantage.

Game 4 is tomorrow night in Nashville.

Joel Ward and David Legwand both scored for the Predators, who matched the Canucks’ energy but not their shots. Vancouver outshot Nashville, 40-26, through regulation.

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