TAMPA, Fla. – In the fourth of eight meetings between the clubs this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals faced off for the second time at the St. Pete Times Forum. Despite a 29-save effort by goaltender Johan Holmqvist, a third period goal by defenseman Brian Pothier lifted the Capitals to a 3-2 win.
Scoring for the Lightning, Vincent Lecavalier posted his team-leading 22nd goal of the season and added one assist in the contest. Pothier and Tomas Fleischmann each notched one goal and one helper to lead the Capitals in the win.
Less than five minutes into the game defenseman Paul Ranger put the Lightning on the board with his sixth goal of the season. After Lecavalier won an offensive zone faceoff back to the left point, Ranger fired a slap shot towards the Capitals net. Goaltender Brent Johnson got his glove on the shot but did not control it, sending the puck over his left shoulder and into the goal.
With 5:34 remaining in the opening period Fleischmann connected for the Capitals to tie the game at one. Michal Nylander controlled the puck behind the net before dishing a pass to Fleischmann at the crease. The Washington winger popped the puck to the Holmqvist’s right side for his fifth goal of the season.
Eight seconds into the middle frame Washington took their first lead of the night. As Pothier made a pass at the side of the net, Dave Steckel banged the puck past Holmqvist for the score.
After Vaclav Prospal was denied by Johnson on a shot at the side of the net, Lecavalier scored to even the score at two.
Stealing the puck from Alexander Ovechkin at the Washington blue line, Lecavalier made a go-ahead pass to Prospal. Skating the puck down the right wing, Prospal carried the puck across the blue line before dropping a pass back to Lecavalier. The Lightning center held on to the puck as he glided towards the right faceoff dot before snapping a wrist shot through the five hole against Johnson.
The goal extended Lecavalier’s scoring streak to three games, totaling six points in that span. Lecavalier’s 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists) through 33 games is the most in franchise history, surpassing Martin St. Louis’ 43 points during the 2006-07 season.
Midway through the period Holmqvist denied Ovechkin on a wrist shot from the right wing, getting a piece of the puck with his pad for the save.
Ovechkin had a seven-game point-streak snapped in the contest as he was held off the board for the first time since a November 30 match-up against the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington’s leading scorer with 38 points (23 goals, 15 assists), Ovechkin has posted points in all but six of his team’s 33 games this season.
As Filip Kuba served a double-minor for high-sticking late in the second, Ranger and Brad Richards looked to regain the Lightning lead with a short-handed odd-man rush. The players skated into the zone and Ranger fed a pass across to Richards down low, but as Mike Green came up behind Richards the Lightning winger could not get his stick on the puck for an attempt.
Preserving the tie as the teams closed out the second period, Holmqvist denied a Nylander power play shot in front of the net with a glove save.
Early in the third period Mathieu Darche fed a puck from below the goal line to Andreas Karlsson at the left wing. Karlsson’s shot from the left hash marks sailed inches over the net on the play.
At the opposite end of the ice Holmqvist responded by making a save at the side of the net against a wrist shot by Green before grabbing an Ovechkin shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. Despite the saves, Pothier connected for his third goal of the season by jumping into the play and converting a Matt Pettinger pass from behind the net.
Holmqvist later denied Ovechkin on a breakaway attempt as the Capitals winger tried to make a deke in front of the net. Sliding across his crease, Holmqvist deflected the shot with a glove save.
Johnson responded for the Capitals late in the period, making a glove save on a wrist shot by Darche at the left hash marks before grabbing a shot by Karlsson in the slot. The Washington netminder finished the contest with 23 saves as the Capitals out-shot the Lightning, 32-25. Both teams were scoreless through four power plays apiece.
Holmqvist fell to 5-3-0 against Washington through eight career starts, posting his first loss to the Capitals in his previous four outings against the club.
With his points in the contest, Lecavalier leads Tampa Bay with seven points (two goals, five assists) through four games against Washington this season. Lecavalier has been held off the scoresheet once through eight games in the month of December. During those contest Lecavalier has recorded 13 points (six goals, seven assists).
The Lightning have two days off before traveling to visit the Atlanta Thrashers for the second time this season. Dropping the puck on Tuesday, December 18 (7:00p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE), the clubs will face off for the fifth of eight scheduled meetings.
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