WASHINGTON — Just a week or so ago, the buzz around the Lightning was that star and captain Steven Stamkos was struggling to put the puck in the net. Now he's one of Tampa Bay's top players.
After scoring one goal in the Lightning's first seven postseason games this season, Stamkos has goals in five of the past six. That includes the opening goal in Game 3's 4-2 win against the Capitals in the Eastern Conference final Tuesday, one of his patented one-time lasers from the faceoff circle while on a power play.
He's on fire.
"Everything is under the microscope come playoff time, the good and the bad,'' Stamkos said. "You're probably never as bad as people are saying. You're never as good as people are saying. You learn that throughout your career.
"During the playoffs, everything is looked upon differently. So when things aren't going well, it's magnified. When things are, people are talking about it.''
People are certainly talking about Stamkos.
"It's definitely the best I felt physically,'' Stamkos said. "The more you play, the better you feel. Obviously, when things start going in, the confidence levels goes higher.''
The return of 'Vasy'
Though he couldn't be completely blamed for giving up 10 goals in five periods as the Lightning dropped the first two games of the conference final, Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy responded with an outstanding 36-save performance in Game 3. As coach Jon Cooper pointed out, Vasilevskiy clearly turned the page after Game 2.
"It's very important, especially in the playoffs,'' Vasilevskiy said. "Good or bad game, it doesn't matter. Turn the page, start over again and again. That's how you get success.''
The Lightning has never lost faith in him.
"Vasy is making all the saves he has to and more,'' Cooper said.
Stamkos said, "He was a difference-maker for us (Tuesday). … When we see him playing that well, it gives confidence to everyone.''
Ironic complaint of the day
Capitals F Tom Wilson — who had two head-hunting hits in the last round against the Penguins, including one for which he was suspended three games — had a big problem with a hit delivered by Lightning D Anton Stralman in Game 3.
Stralman left his feet and hit Wilson from behind and into the boards. Stralman was given a two-minute penalty.
"He leaves his feet, I'm in a pretty vulnerable spot, and he drives my head through the glass," Wilson said after the game. "He sees my number for a good amount of time, and he elevates through the back of my shoulder and head.''
The NHL did not suspend Stralman, which likely did not sit well with Wilson.
"If I make that hit, 100 percent I'm probably sitting out," Wilson said.
The Lightning did not practice Wednesday, opting for a complete day off. … The Lightning has never lost a playoff game in Washington. It is 6-0 over three playoff series (2003, 2011 and this year). … Lightning D Victor Hedman has points in nine consecutive playoff games, a franchise record.