The Washington Capitals were confident. Alex Ovechkin had tied the score with 1:07 left and Verizon Center was full of nervous excitement going into overtime.
Then, it was all over thanks to one bad line change. The Caps got caught, the Lightning put together a two-on-one rush and won the game.
"It was a bad change and at the same time the guys coming on didn't come on anywhere near as quick as they should have," coach Bruce Boudreau said afterward.
Everything unraveled when a tired Scott Hannan skated through the neutral zone to the home bench, which was further away from the defensive zone because of overtime. Tampa Bay defenseman Randy Jones saw Hannan going off and fired the puck from his goal line all the way to Teddy Purcell at the Caps' blue line.
Meanwhile, Jeff Schultz — coming on to replace Hannan — tried desperately to race back along with Nicklas Backstrom. But they were several strides behind Vinny Lecavalier.
The rest was fundamental. Purcell and Lecavalier were left two-on-one against Mike Green, and a tape-to-tape pass gave Lecavalier plenty of time to roof one past Neuvirth.
"It's frustrating. It goes to show you: In the playoffs, you make mistakes and they're going to cost you," Hannan said. "And it did tonight. I'll take blame for that. I should have stayed on the ice, and it would have been a dead play probably."
Even a tired Hannan likely would have had no problem short-circuiting that rush. But the mental mistake of a long change hurt dearly.
"Just a little miscommunication on the line change, and I think they made a line change and kinda snuck a guy behind us that we just weren't aware of," Schultz said. "I just tried to jump on as quick as possible and get back, but it wasn't fast enough."
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