"I think we were expecting to have a longer series." -- Sean Bergenheim, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa, FL -- As had been the case in the previous three games in this series, the Washington Capitals could not find the answers to some of the Tampa Bay Lightning role players in Game Four last night and paid the ultimate price for it. Third-liner Sean Bergenheim scored a pair of goals, his sixth and seventh of the playoffs, to lead the Lightning to a 5-3 win and eliminate the Caps from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Ultimately, Tampa was the better team -- top to bottom -- in this series. The results obviously speak for themselves; but the effort, determination and resolve Tampa showed on the ice spoke volumes as well.
Did the Capitals think Tampa was the better team?
"They beat us four straight so I think they were," coach Bruce Boudreau said in his post-game. "It wasn't by a big margin, but we're still done in four games, so I'd have to say they were better."
"They played well," veteran center Jason Arnott added. "I'm not taking anything away from them. It was a battle. A few bounces might have gone our way, but that's playoffs. You can't sit here and complain about it and wonder if the bounces went the other way. They just didn't. They played hard and [Roloson] played extremely well in the net so hat's off to them. They came out to play and you know, we lapsed at certain times in every game and that cost us."
Those lapses, especially when Tampa's best players actually weren't on the ice, were the biggest difference in this series. "This is the first team we've played in a while that has three lines that really come at you," Boudreau said. "Their "so-called" third line -- I think [Steve] Downie had 12 points, [Dominic] Moore and Bergenheim had at least six goals, so that's pretty good for a third line."
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher talked about Bergenheim's presence in the series. "This year every top game, every important game, every game that there is some pressure, he was in it. He was one of our better players. Some people freeze under the pressure, some people fly away and some people fight. He fights."
Brooks Laich rationalized the results. "I thought there were games, or portions of games where we outplayed them but your're not judged by intentions this time of year, you're judged by your results."
Tampa Bay outworked and outplayed the Caps in this series. The numbers are evident. They showed all the things that champions talk about: hard work, determination, resolve, doing the little things, playing 60 minute games. The Lightning came out to win these games, and after the Caps played poorly in Game One, they looked very much like they were playing not to lose.
We can talk in the coming days about who was along for the ride in this series and who was giving effort. We'll debate long into the summer about whether the roster will get tweaked or if it deserves a total overhaul. And there will probably be some quick discussion -- either way -- about who is going to lead this team going forward. I'll leave the speculation alone for the evening.
But right now, after being swept by the team that finished behind them in the division, all that need be said is that the Capitals' season ended at the hands of the better team.
Emphasis on the word team.