Eastern Conference finals: Game 2
Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Series: Capitals lead 1-0
Sunday, Amalie Arena, 8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN
• Center Nicklas Backstrom is expected to miss a third straight playoff game for the Capitals. (Read more)
• Tampa Bay Coach Jon Cooper defended his goaltender after he was yanked two periods into Game 1. Washington’s Braden Holtby had an easier night than Andrei Vasilevskiy, and he’s late-season struggles seem a distant memory now. (Read more)
• With Backstrom injured, center Lars Eller has thrived with more responsibility. (Read more)
Top story lines
• Backstrom: The Capitals have won the past two games without their top center, but there’s some concern that success won’t be sustainable over a seven-game series. Backstrom injured his right hand blocking a shot in Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and though he skated on Sunday morning with some light shooting and stickhandling, he didn’t take line rushes, an indication he’s out for Game 2. Coach Barry Trotz said he’s “optimistic” Backstrom will play in this Eastern Conference final, and though Trotz officially deemed Backstrom a “game-time decision,” it’s unlikely he’ll play in Game 2. A return for Game 3 seems possible.
“He’s our key player,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We’ll see what’s going to happen, if he’s going to play tonight or not, but obviously everyone knows what he means to this organization and this club. If he’s going to be in, it will be nice.”
• Burakovsky: Though Backstrom remains out, left wing Andre Burakovsky was back in the lineup for Game 1 after missing 10 games for an undisclosed “upper-body” injury that required surgery. His return gives Washington more depth lower in the lineup, and he skated 14:02, slotting in beside center Chandler Stephenson and winger Brett Connolly on the third line. Though rust was expected, Trotz was happy with what he saw from his speedy, 23-year-old Swede.
“I thought he did really well,” Trotz said. “I knew that the pace, in terms of speed and skating and that type of thing, would be easy for Andre. Andre is very gifted in terms of quickness and that. I thought maybe a little of just the feel for the details that come in playing a systematic game, especially in the playoffs with a lot of pressure and a lot of pace, that you sort of end up drifting or losing some of your details, and I was actually quite impressed with his detail in his game and his ability to make plays off the wall — those type of things that you can’t really replicate in practice. He did a really good job in that situation to execute his plays, and [that line] created a lot of chances. I thought they were really good.”
• Special teams: Tampa Bay’s penalty kill percentage (71.4) is the worst of teams left in the playoffs, and Washington’s hot power play took advantage with two goals on the first two man-advantage opportunities of the game. The team has at least one power play goal in all but two games this postseason. But while the Capitals can capitalize when the Lightning play undisciplined, Washington has to be wary of not doing the same. Tampa Bay’s power play is scoring on 26.8 percent of its chances, including a third-period goal in Friday’s Game 1.
Players to watch
Braden Holtby: With the Lightning putting just 10 shots on net through two periods, Holtby wasn’t tested much in Game 1, but the performance continued a strong playoff run for him. It’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t backstopping Washington, on the bench for the first two postseason games because Philipp Grubauer beat him out for the starting job. Since Holtby got the net back, he’s posted a .925 save percentage with a 2.04 goals against average.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Tampa Bay replaced its goaltender after he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Game 1. Cooper didn’t fault Vasilevskiy’s performance, placing more blame on the play in front of him, and the 23-year-old will be back in net on Sunday night. He’s a Vezina Trophy finalist after he played 65 games this season, winning 44 of them with a 2.60 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
“Superman has Kryptonite, too,” Cooper said. “We can’t depend on [Vasilevskiy] to stop the barrage of chances he was getting.”
Immerse yourself in the Capitals’ postseason with The Post’s coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
Lars Eller steps out of injured Nicklas Backstrom’s shadow and into the spotlight
Capitals must take what they need from Game 1 vs. Lightning and throw away the rest
Lightning defenseman tried to copy Alex Ovechkin’s moves. Now he’s trying to stop them.
Barry Trotz is ‘optimistic’ Nicklas Backstrom will play in series vs. Lightning
‘D.C. needs this bad’: Pair of ex-Redskins attended Caps’ Game 1 win in Tampa
Lightning’s ineffective penalty kill proves a major problem against the Capitals
Capitals-Lightning Game 1: Washington strikes first, takes 1-0 series lead over Tampa
Suddenly, the Capitals are on the right side of a series of fortunate events
‘We are all about the Rangers South’: Capitals face familiar playoff foes in Tampa
Barry Trotz lacks a contract extension, but has perspective as Capitals pursue Stanley Cup
Capitals aren’t expected to beat the Lightning. That might be just what they need.
Michael Wilbon calls D.C. a ‘minor league sports town’ after Caps celebration. Deep sigh.
Do the Capitals look like a true Stanley Cup contender? (No.)
Brett Connolly missed a Stanley Cup run with Lightning. Now on Caps, he has his chance.
Capitals’ Tom Wilson tries to adapt his tactics after a suspension he still disputes
Lightning ticket restrictions could block the red for visiting Caps fans
For Washington sports teams and fans, a breakthrough, and maybe a new era
The Capitals could exploit the Lightning’s biggest statistical weakness
There’s a cursed Capitals puck buried beneath the Penguins’ arena. (Its powers are suspect.)
The Capitals finally beat the Penguins. They don’t want to stop there.
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s overtime goal was eerily similar to Dale Hunter’s 30 years ago
Lightning presents Capitals with a foe even more daunting than the Penguins
On one play, Alex Ovechkin and the Caps exorcise decades of D.C. demons
Capitals’ win puts a dagger in the D.C. sports ‘curse’
This Capitals team could be different, because its path to get here was harder
How the Capitals improved their defensive play in time for the postseason
Washington’s expected lineup
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana-Lars Eller-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Chandler Stephenson-Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly-Jay Beagle-Alex Chiasson
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Christian Djoos
Braden Holtby (starter)
Tampa Bay’s expected lineup
J.T. Miller-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat-Brayden Point-Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn-Anthony Cirelli-Yanni Gourde
Chris Kunitz-Cedric Paquette-Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman-Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh-Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn-Mikahil Sergachev
Andrei Vasilevskiy (starter)