And now leaders of their own divisions - top seeds in the Metropolitan and Atlantic, respectively - whoever wins this battle of the past divisional rivals will win the Eastern Conference crown and earn the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The Washington Capitals opened the Eastern Conference Final in style with a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1. Washington leads the best of seven series, 1-0. "We need to play an even better game".
The Caps had more jump in the opening 20 minutes.
Washington did a great job dictating pace through the first 40 minutes.
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Those words are important, but we'll see what they mean. He had been on his second visit to North Korea. I will remember for the rest of my life.
Washington was two for four on the powerplay tonight and seemed to be firing on all cylinders for the first two periods. Only two garbage time goals by Tampa kept the game from getting completely out of hand.
They couldn't control the injury that deprived them of star center Nicklas Backstrom for a second straight game.
In the end, it wasn't the Capitals coasting into Game 1 on the good vibes of the previous round, not exhibiting the levels of competitive ferocity to win this playoff game. It worked so well they made a decision to sit him right on the glass in order to keep up the publicity. I think on five-on-five we had lots of opportunities. Winger Tom Wilson, meanwhile, returned from a three-game suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh's Zach Aston-Reese during in the second round. Steven Stamkos scored on a power play 3:45 into the third period, and Ondrej Palat scored the Lightning's second goal before time ran out. At even-strength, Eller was on the ice for 18 shot attempts for and 13 against, giving him a 58.06 percent CorsiFor percentage.
T.J. Oshie won the faceoff to the left of Vasilevskiy. Everything is going the Capitals' way so far. Just look at their second goal.
The Golden Knights have surprised everyone this year, and they should not be underestimated. Two of the Caps four goals came despite whiffing on an earlier shot. They called it. They knew they didn't have that much time.
There were questions concerning which Capitals team the Lightning would face: one suffering an emotional letdown after finally beating the Penguins to the conference final or one who would use the energy from slaying that playoff dragon to continue its quest for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.