Uh-oh.

That has to be the official perspective of the Washington Capitals fan base after watching the Tampa Bay Lightning post a 4-2 win against the Caps to tie the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 2-2.

When the Capitals reached the third round of the playoffs for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era, it seemed as if the organization had finally moved beyond its history of postseason frustration.

But perhaps we were premature in believing that.

The Capitals played a strong game, performed well enough to win Game 4, but were stymied by a dominating goaltending performance by Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.

When you consider that the Lightning went more than 21 minutes without a shot on goal at one stretch, it seems fair to say Vasilevskiy stole this game for the Lightning with his 36 saves.

If you are a long-suffering Caps fan, you’ve seen this situation too many times before.

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Why did the Capitals lose? They went 0-for-4 on the power play, failing to convert on three consecutive chances in the first period. Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal for Tampa Bay. In that first period, the dominating Capitals out-shot Tampa Bay 15-7 and yet left the ice trailing 2-1.

The Capitals also owned the puck in the second period, outshooting Tampa Bay 14-6. Although the Capitals tied the game 2-2, their inability to take charge in that second period was a key factor in the outcome of the game.

The Capitals got a lift from the return of Nicklas Backstrom, who hadn’t played in this series because of a hand injury. But Vasilevskiy’s excellence negated all of the positive factors the Capitals had going.

When Alex Killorn scored with 8:03 left in the third period, the Lightning owned enough momentum to hang on for the win.

If the Capitals want to put a positive spin on this, they can point to the fact that the series, between two exceptional teams, is 2-2 and they are going to Tampa where they won twice to start this series.

They are 7-1 on the road in these playoffs. And as Washington coach Barry Trotz pointed out after Game 4, they’ve played three strong games in this series.

But the Lightning go home feeling good about themselves. Their goalie is hot, their power play (6-for-14) is clicking and their captain Steven Stamkos has scored in every game in this series and netted goals in six of his past seven games.

However, it will be difficult for the Capitals, and their fans, not to look at the last two games as missed opportunities. Teams that win the first two games on the road are supposed take charge of that series when they return home. They didn’t seize command. Doubt has crept back in. 

Because the Capitals couldn’t win Game 3 or Game 4, suddenly we are reminded again that they own a lengthy history of postseason frustrations. Given the Capitals’ baggage, Saturday’s Game 5 may be the most important game the Capitals have played in many years. 

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