for this game

Lightning sweep Caps, advance to conference finals

May 5, 2011 - 3:55 AM
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - It's remarkable how quickly a team's fate can change.

Two weeks ago, it looked as though Tampa Bay's appearance in the 2011 NHL playoffs would be no more than a brief cameo following a double-overtime loss to Pittsburgh.

Fast-forward to the present, and the Lightning are making their second-ever trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

Sean Bergenheim scored a pair of second-period goals and Tampa Bay completed just its second four-game sweep in postseason history with a 5-3 victory over the top-seeded Washington Capitals at St. Pete Times Forum.

Ryan Malone and Marc-Andre Bergeron both netted power-play goals for the fifth-seeded Lightning, who have won seven games in a row since falling behind 3-1 in their first round series with the Penguins.

Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson made 33 saves.

The only other time the Lightning swept an opponent also occurred in a conference semifinal, as they dispatched the Montreal Canadiens en route to the 2004 Stanley Cup.

Up next for Tampa Bay is either Boston or Philadelphia. The Bruins lead that best-of-seven set, 3-0, but were in a similar position last year before dropping four straight to the Flyers in an epic collapse.

Michal Neuvirth allowed all five goals on 37 shots for Washington, which hasn't advanced past the second round since losing to Detroit in the 1998 Cup Finals. That was also the last time the Capitals were swept in the playoffs.

"They just beat us in four straight so I think they were," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau on if the Lightning were the better team. "It wasn't by a big margin, but we're still done in four games, so I'd have to say they were better."

The clubs were deadlocked after trading power-play goals in the first period.

Martin St. Louis dished down low to Vincent Lecavalier at the side of the net. The Tampa Bay captain then passed through the crease to Malone, who had the puck deflect in off his skate at 12:37.

Washington countered with 1:30 remaining on a tally that pinballed in off Marco Sturm's noggin.

Bergenheim put the Bolts up 3-1 with two goals in the middle stanza.

"This year every top game, every important game, every game that there is some pressure, he was in it," said Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher about Bergenheim. "He was one of our better players. Some people freeze under pressure, some people fly away and some people fight. He fights."

Engaged in a battle outside the blue paint, Bergenheim managed to find a loose puck and flip it over Washington's rookie goaltender at 4:41. The Finn struck again at 12:34, slamming home the rebound of a Dominic Moore shot that Neuvirth repelled with his right pad.

John Erskine lit the lamp 66 seconds later, letting go a shot from the boards near the outer edge of the left circle that eluded Roloson for his first career playoff goal.

The Capitals killed off consecutive power plays late in the frame to keep the score 3-2.

With Sturm in the penalty box for goalie interference, Bergeron gave Tampa Bay its second two-goal lead of the game with a blast from the point at 5:07 of the third period.

St. Louis, a Hart Trophy finalist, made it 5-2 at 16:52 before Washington's John Carlson completed the scoring a little over a minute later.

Game Notes

Bergenheim is pacing the Lightning with seven playoff goals, half of the total he potted during the regular season...Moore, Steve Downie and Teddy Purcell each collected two assists for Tampa Bay...The Capitals have now lost eight straight postseason games to the Lightning...Tampa Bay forward Simon Gagne and defenseman Pavel Kubina both missed their third straight game with head injuries...Washington defenseman Mike Green sat out Wednesday with a lower- body injury he suffered in Game 3.