TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- For a team making its first postseason appearance in seven years, the Tampa Bay Lightning showed little to prove they belong.
Robert Lang scored twice and Olaf Kolzig made 28 saves as the Washington Capitals took Game One of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Lightning with a 3-0 victory.
After making the playoffs just once in their 10-year history, the Lightning clinched a second appearance by winning the Southeast Division by one point over Washington.
But the Capitals proved the better team in this one, limiting Tampa Bay to few quality scoring chances while forcing turnovers and cashing in on their opportunities.
With just seven goals in 45 career playoff games, Lang gave Kolzig all the support he needed late in the first period before adding insurance late in the second.
"The first goal sets the tone," Lang said. "Every time you score the first goal, it adds pressure to the other team."
"I thought the first two periods were good periods," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "Both teams checked very well. Washington did a good job. They ended up scoring at opportune times when they had a couple of chances."
Kolzig, who led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, turned aside five shots in the first period, 10 in the second and 13 in the third for his sixth postseason shutout.
"I'm glad they got him a shutout," Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. "It's a team win, but it's a nice accolade."
Acquired from Chicago in an early-season trade, Michael Nylander netted his first career playoff goal early in the third for the Capitals, who have not won a postseason series since reaching the Finals five years ago.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 19 shots for Tampa Bay but fell to 10-14 lifetime in the playoffs.
Game Two is Saturday at Tampa Bay.
Reunited with former Pittsburgh teammate Jaromir Jagr when he signed as a free agent last July, Lang made an excellent second effort to give Washington the lead.
From the left corner, Mike Grier fed Lang in the low slot and the Czech center took a shot that was deflected by Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich. With the puck in mid-air, Lang batted it over Khabibulin's left shoulder at 16:01 of the first period.
"Every now and then, you get a good bounce and get lucky, and we did that," Lang said. "That's the first time I've scored out of the air. I don't know if I've ever did that."
"It doesn't surprise me," teammate Peter Bondra said. "His hand-eye coordination is unbelievable."
Brad Richards intercepted a pass by Nylander in the Capitals' zone less than six minutes into the second period and unleashed a shot from the high slot. But Kolzig made a left arm save to maintain the lead.
The 2000 Vezina Trophy winner produced his best stop with five minutes left in the period.
Sneaking around rookie Brian Sutherby on the right wide, Vincent Lecavalier took a feed from Vaclav Prospal in the faceoff circle and cut across the low slot. Shifting to his backhand, Lecavalier tried to slip the puck past Kolzig, but he made a sprawling save to preserve the shutout.
"We had a couple of breakdowns in the second, but that's going to happen from time to time," Kolzig said. "I'm lucky I have long legs. He got the puck, came to my right and I was going with him. He tried to put it in the short side. I've got long legs, so I was fortunate."
"That's the turning point if he scores there," Cassidy said. "It may be a different hockey game. We expect that out of Olaf. He's given that to us all year, so why not tonight?" A turnover in the neutral zone proved crucial for the Lightning, who finished the season with the fifth-highest home point total.
Dainius Zubrus picked off defenseman Jassen Cullimore's cross-ice pass and flicked a backhanded pass to Lang. Cruising down the left side, Lang put a wrist shot from the circle past Khabibulin's short side with 2:03 remaining to give the Capitals a 2-0 cushion.
"Robert Lang can score goals," Cassidy said. "He can shoot the puck. It's pure talent. The second one was a great play by Zubrus to get us going. A great line change by Jagr and he just freezes Khabibulin to pick the right spot."
Sergei Gonchar, who finished a point behind St. Louis' Al MacInnis for the league lead in scoring among defensemen, put a cross-slot pass on the stick of Kip Miller in the right circle. Miller quickly dished to Nylander, who put it into an open left side of the net from the doorstep 62 seconds into the third to close the scoring.
"The series isn't over," Tampa Bay captain Dave Andreychuk said. "It's a long way to go. They've still got to win three more games against us. ... It wasn't an eye-opener for the young guys, but when they go home tonight and realize that they're down, 1-0, hopefully we can rebound in Game Two."
"The puck just wasn't bouncing our way tonight," defenseman Dan Boyle added. "It's a long series and everyone has to understand that. You're not going to win the series in one game. ... You can't dwell on it, you have to let it go."