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Steven Stamkos returns to ice after taking puck to face in practice

Steven Stamkos returns to ice after taking puck to face in practice

Nikita Kucherov in most got enough time to strike a sighting shot in the upper left corner of the goal, "Washington", and two minutes later Victor Hedman to the two assists he added in his debut playoff goal, sending the puck into the nearly unguarded net after a pass Kucherov. The Lightning rode that flash of energy from Stamkos's power-play goal for the remainder of Game 3, en route to a 4-2 victory at Capital One Arena in Washington. But after last year's face plant, when Stamkos played only 17 games because of a knee injury and Tampa Bay failed to make the playoffs, the motivation is to win now.

With reports of their demise proven premature, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to even their Eastern Conference Final with the Washington Capitals when the teams meet in Game 4 on Thursday night. They know what to expect from the Capitals.

But the key to the Game 3 victory was Tampa Bay's refusal to squander that effort from their stars, both offensively and defensively. 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.

Washington now has something to play for.

The Lightning climbed back into the series with Tuesday's 4-2 win, improving to 4-1 on the road in the 2018 playoffs. The road team is 4-0 in the last four meetings. Losing tonight would undo all the work they did to get home ice advantage in the series, and win those first two games.

In Game 3 against Washington, they led the way again.

Which power-play blast did Cooper like better?

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"Today was one of those games you feed pucks to Kuch and Stammer, pucks are going to go in", Hedman said. "When Nicky's ready to go, he's ready to go", Trotz said. "But the big games when we've needed them ... those guys put the puck in the net for us".

Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored goals for the Capitals, who are 7-1 in the playoffs on the road following a dominating 6-2 win in game two in Florida. Hes a one of a kind player.

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.

The teams faced off in Game 4 on Thursday night.

Before being injured, Backstrom was one of Washington's top players in the post-season with 13 points in 11 games. "Just a little simpler".

This was how it should be for Tampa Bay. If sports has taught us anything, it's that a 3-1 lead is a less-than-desirable position to be in.