Lightning avenge home losses

Nikita Kucherov (R) of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates with teammate Victor Hedman (C) and Brayden Point after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Capital One Arena in Washington Tuesday. — AFP

WASHINGTON — Victor Hedman scored a goal and provided two assists, and this time it was the Tampa Bay Lightning with some quick strikes in defeating the Washington Capitals 4-2 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night at Capital One Arena in Washington.

Tampa Bay won for the first time in the series and will try to pull even in Game 4, which is set for Thursday night in Washington.

It was the first home game for the Capitals in a conference final in 20 years, but it didn’t go well for Washington.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point also scored for the top-seeded Lightning, who lost twice at home to begin the series.

“It doesn’t matter who scores as long as we win, but it’s nice to perform at this time of the year,” Stamkos said. “We’re happy about getting ourselves back in the series, but definitely not satisfied.”

Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington.

Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had appeared rattled at times in the games on his home ice, made 36 saves Tuesday. The Capitals had only six shots in the third period until the waning minutes, and Vasilevskiy stopped all except one of 13 by period’s end.

“I’m put in a position to produce, and I put that pressure on myself to do it,” said Hedman. “For me, it’s about being effective at all ends of the ice and trying to be a difference-maker every time I step on it.”

Hedman has a goal and 10 assists during an eight-game point streak.

Washington goalie Braden Holtby stopped 19 shots. He was pulled with more than three minutes remaining as the Capitals were desperate to create more offense. It paid off with Kuznetsov’s goal with 3:02 to play.

In the first two games, Washington scored goals in the waning seconds of a period in each contest. This time, the Lightning prevented the momentum swings.

After Tampa Bay scored the game’s first three goals, Connolly tallied for the Capitals midway through the second period.

Then, trailing 4-1 in the third period, Washington was denied on a power play that seemed to douse its hopes.

Stamkos opened the scoring with 6:07 remaining in the first period. He took a feed from Hedman, converting for his 10th career postseason power-play goal — a franchise record.

Washington registered 14 first-period shots without scoring.

Kucherov and Hedman scored within a two-minute span early in the second period.

After Kucherov’s power-play tally at 1:50, Hedman was left alone on the right side and sent a sizzling shot past Holtby to stretch the lead to 3-0 at 3:37.

“That’s a great team over there. They didn’t do what they did all year because of a fluke,” Washington center Jay Beagle said. “We know they’re really dangerous off the rush and we’re trying limit their odd-man rushes. ... Limiting turnovers at their blue line is also a big factor.”

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom remained out of the lineup despite going through the morning skate. He has yet to play this series due to a hand injury sustained in the previous round. — Reuters