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Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Lightning journal: Laying it all on the (same) line

WASHINGTON D.C. — Sometimes it’s worth changing things up just to change things up.

That was the thought as the Lightning headed into Tuesday night’s Game 3 against the Caps after getting blasted in the first two games. Maybe a tinker with the lineup could cause a major change in the outcome.

But after considering everything, the Lightning made no lineup changes for Game 3. It was the same lineup as the first two games.

The Lightning had a couple of options. It could have inserted forward Cory Conacher into the mix. To do so, it probably would have had to sit Cedric Paquette. But, to be fair, Paquette played pretty well during the times he and linemates Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz were out there against Washington’s top line featuring Alex Ovechkin in Game 2.

The other thought was that the Lightning could have played 11 forwards and seven defensemen. That’s something Lightning coach Jon Cooper has done quite often with much success in the past.

But he decided to stay with the same 12 forwards and six defensemen for Game 3.

“We’ve thought about different things,” Cooper said before Game 3. “For me and our staff, we don’t feel it’s a personnel issue. It’s how we’re playing, our effort and our game plan. That’s the difference.”

Cooper, however, did juggle the lines in the first period, putting Ondrej Palat on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, while putting Yanni Gourde with Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point.

Line of the day

When asked before Game 3 about the play of G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Cooper said no one with Tampa Bay needed to defend Vasilevskiy because the goalie was playing well.

“We’re confident in what he does for us,” Cooper said. “We just can’t give these chances up. It’s 2-on-1 after 2-on-1. And it’s not Jon Cooper going on a 2-on-1. It’s (Evgeny) Kuznetsov and (Alex) Ovechkin. There’s a big difference there.”

Numbers of the day

Before Game 3 and according to a Las Vegas oddsmaker, the Lightning was the longest shot to win the Stanley Cup of the four teams left in the playoffs. Boveda had the Caps as the Cup favorites at 8-5. They were followed by the Golden Knights at 12-5 and Winnipeg at 13-5. The Lightning was the longshot at 13-2.

Biggest fan

Arguably Washington’s biggest sports star, Nationals slugger Bryce Harper, is a huge hockey fan and his team is shooting for the Stanley Cup. But it’s not the Capitals. Harper was raised in Las Vegas and has become a diehard fan of the Golden Knights. “I get more nervous watching them than anything I’ve done in my life,” Harper told USA Today.Harper said he gets more nervous watching the Golden Knights than playing baseball. “It’s unreal,” he said.

Bolts bits

Seen on the Lightning bench during Tuesday’s morning skate: Georgetown basketball coach Patrick Ewing. … Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom sat out again with a right hand injury. He hasn’t played since Game 5 of the last series against the Penguins.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com Follow @tomwjones

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