All Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher wanted to tell everybody about this series is that it’s his team that’s the underdog, David to the Capitals’ Goliath. Classic mind games being played by a rookie head coach.
"If they don't win, it's a failure," Boucher said before Game 1. "It's Goliath against David. That's what it is. We'd better get our slingshots ready."
Not sure anybody’s buying it. I’m certainly not. The Bolts have players, they have talent, and they seem to have finally solved their goalie riddle with the ageless wonder Dwayne Roloson . Let us remind you the Lightning, despite being the fifth seed, only finished four points behind Washington this season.
Hardly the stuff of fairy tales.
He wasn't willing to concede much after the game, either.
"We won the game, but there's going to be a lot of work ahead. And we know that team is going to come out flying next game and take it to us, like they did the rest of the teams," Boucher said.
But if the Lightning are David, then – to mix classic stories – they might be the little engine that could. And we really do mean little.
The team not only boasts diminutive Hart finalist Martin St. Louis -- 5-feet-8 off skates -- but had to play the majority of Game 1 short, with just 10 forwards. That’s because Simon Gagne left early in the first period and didn’t return after a hard fall to the ice after a hit from Scott Hannan . The Bolts later took a loss to the blue line when Pavel Kubina left and didn't come back.
"We were going through a lot of short shifts, 15-20 second-shifts. It was very exhausting for our guys," Boucher said. "Especially with back-to-back games coming up at home on Tuesday and Wednesday, it's going to be tough."
It didn’t matter. Tampa Bay was good enough -- and a little lucky -- to win its fourth game in a row, taking a 1-0 lead on the Capitals. It was also the Lightning’s fourth consecutive road playoff win. Not too shabby.
The luck, you ask? Check out Steve Downie's goal . It qualifies in the fluke variety. With the Lightning catching the Caps on a line change, Downie chased down a puck to the right of the cage and just tried to backhand it across the crease, but the pass was intercepted by Hannan. That's when fortune struck as the puck redirected right on goal and over the shoulder of Michal Neuvirth for the game-tying score.
But Boucher is right about one thing. There is a ton of pressure on the Capitals to win. Bruce Boudreau’s future behind the bench could be on the line with Washington’s run this year.
The fans in Verizon Center know it, too. On more than one occasion the locals showed their restlessness, jeering the Caps with boos both at the end of the second period and during an anemic third-period power play.
Boudreau wasn't too pleased with how his team played either, intimating they returned to the style of hockey they went away from this season.
"You can't play river hockey. That's how we played. You can't revert back to an older day."
The pressure will only mount after this.
We’ll let Boucher use whatever tactics he wants. If it gets to the Capitals and their fans, all the better. Let’s just say if he insists on calling his team David, then let's concede that slingshot is filled with something stronger than stones.
-- Brian Stubits