CAPITALS HOLD OFF LIGHTNING, 5-3
WASHINGTON – Two late goals in the second period were all that the Washington Capitals needed to hold off the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night, 5-3. Despite getting one goal and one assist from both Jason Ward and Paul Ranger in addition to two helpers from Brad Richards, the Lightning were unable to mount an early deficit against their Southeast Division rivals.
Taking to the road for a single game, the contest marked the first night of back-to-back games for the Lightning. In the first of four trips to the nation’s capital, Washington captain Chris Clark scored twice to lead his team to the win.
With Marc Denis making his first starting appearance of the season the Capitals put early pressure on the Lightning netminder as Alexander Semin looked for the opening score. Playing towards the top of the crease, Denis made a left shoulder save to deny an attempt by Semin as the Washington winger flicked a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle.
Despite the save, Clark opened the scoring less than six minutes into the game. After picking off the puck high in Washington’s offensive zone, Clark fired a wrist shot through traffic that beat Denis high to the glove side. The puck banged off the corner of the post and into the net for Clark’s first goal of the season.
Fighting back to tie the game, Ward responded with his first goal of the season to tie the game at one. After Ranger made an outlet pass to Richards at the right faceoff circle, the Lightning winger dishes a pass through the zone to Ward as he charged down the left wing. Making a deke on netminder Olaf Kolzig, Ward pulled the puck to the back hand before popping a shot past the right stick-side of the outstretched goalie.
At the beginning of the middle frame Denis held off Capitals leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin. The Washington winger fired a wrist shot after skating the puck around the top of the zone. Denis cradled the shot as Clark crashed towards the net looking for the rebound.
Shortly after the save Dave Steckel connected for his first NHL goal. After Ovechkin pulled Denis to the left side of his net he passed through the zone to Steckel positioned to the right of the crease. Steckel popped the shot behind Denis for the score less than five minutes into the period.
Once again the Lightning fought back to tie the game, connecting shorthanded at 7:27 of the second.
A mere 13 seconds into a Brad Lukowich cross-checking penalty, Ranger connected for Tampa Bay’s second shorthanded goal this season. Jumping up into the play, Ranger fought off Ovechkin to flick a shot through the five hole from the slot. The goal marked the first score by a Lightning defenseman this season.
Playing with the man advantage Semin tried to respond for the Capitals but was once against held off the board by Denis. Michael Nylander fed a pass from deep in the zone for Semin to fire a one-timer from the left point. Denis covered the puck to contain the rebound on the play.
Shortly after the expiration of the Lukowich minor Denis robbed Clark in front of the net. After Viktor Kozlov fired a hard shot at Denis from the left side board, Clark positioned himself in front of Denis for the rebound attempt. As Clark aimed the puck over Denis, the Lightning goalie stretched out to make a glove save.
Despite the big saves Washington fired 16 shots during the second period, eventually connecting twice in a span of 1:01 to take a 4-2 lead into the final frame.
With Tampa Bay caught on a line change, Matt Pettinger carried the puck deep into the zone from the blue line. Pettinger passed the puck down to Brooks Laich at the side of the net where he banged a shot in to re-gain the Washington lead, 3-2.
A little more than a minute later, and with 1:18 remaining in frame, Clark was credited with his second goal of the night. After defenseman Brian Pothier fired a shot from the right faceoff dot, the puck rebounded off Denis and into Clark as he crashed the crease.
With Washington holding a two-goal lead in the third period, Chris Gratton looked to bring Tampa Bay within one after the Lightning killed off a four-minute double-minor to Vincent Lecavalier
. After Michel Ouellet fed a pass through the crease to Gratton, the Lightning center looked for a one-timer to the short side of Kolzig but was held off on the attempt.
Shortly after Denis made another tough save on Semin as he streaked into the zone for a breakaway attempt. With Lightning defenders coming in from behind, Semin tried to fire off a shot as he approached the crease but Denis made a poke check for the save.
Cutting down the Washington lead, Martin St. Louis
connected for his second goal in consecutive games with 5:54 remaining in the contest. After Mathieu Darche moved the puck out from behind the net to Vaclav Prospal along the right side board, Prospal threw the puck towards the net. St. Louis tipped the shot in front for his second goal of the season.
Late in the period as Tampa Bay looked for the tying goal to force overtime, Ovechkin gained control of the puck and scored an empty-net goal to close the scoring at 5-3. Ovechkin finished the contest with one goal and two assists, extending his lead as Washington’s top scorer through eight games this season.
With two assists in the contest Richards extended his current point streak to four games. The Lightning center has one goal and five assists in that span.
For the second consecutive game Ranger posted a two-point night for Tampa Bay. Picking up his first goal of the season and one assist, Ranger extended his lead as the Lightning’s top scoring defenseman with eight points through seven games. Ranger has been held off the scoresheet only once this season.
Playing in his first game since returning from injury Semin was held off the scoresheet after leading the Capitals in scoring against the Lightning last season. The Washington winger has posted 10 goals through 14 career match-ups against Tampa Bay, including nine during the 2006-07 campaign.
Denis finished his first start of the season by turning aside four shots by Semin and making a total of 24 saves on 28 shots-faced. The Lightning and Capitals tied with 29 shots each in the contest. St. Louis and Jan Hlavac led all Tampa Bay skaters with six shots apiece. Both teams were held scoreless with the man-advantage, with Tampa Bay holding Washington off the board through four power play opportunities.
The Lightning return to the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday, October 25 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) to face off against the Philadelphia Flyers. Closing out their first pair of back-to-back games, the Lightning meet the Flyers for the first of four meetings this season.
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