With just 44 goals allowed at home within the confines of the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning’s league-best mark served as a reward for keeping pucks out of the net.
But inside the same building against the division rival Capitals on Tuesday, the Bolts had no trouble putting them in.
Tampa Bay set a season-high mark of seven goals, including a season-best four in the opening period and four on the power play, as it won for the sixth time in its last eight games.
Steven Stamkos tied a career-high three points for the second time in three games and scored twice on the power play, while Martin St. Louis tied his season-high point streak at 11 games with his 250th career goal and two assists.
“It was definitely exciting for everyone who got a chance to see that. Lots of goals, lots of feistiness, lots of hits and fights…it was a good effort for us tonight,” Stamkos said. “We’ll take the win, especially against those guys.”
Stamkos’ performance moved him into fifth place among the league’s leading goal scorers.
Brandon Bochenski also recorded a career-high three assists for Tampa Bay, who snapped Washington’s three-game win streak. After being recalled from Norfolk of the AHL on Jan. 2, Bochenski has four helpers in his last three games.
Goaltender Mike Smith made six stops on seven shots before a collision in the crease caused him to leave the game at the end of the first period. He was replaced by Antero Niittymaki who improved his career record to 6-2-0 against Washington, making 22 stops of 24 shots.
Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth, who allowed four goals on 15 shots, was pulled after the first period.
“We weren’t ready for tonight. We didn’t play the way we were supposed to play,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I thought we played too casual and tried to be too cute in the first period and it cost us four goals. We didn’t play our game.”
A pair of goals by Stamkos and one each from Vincent Lecavalier and Stephane Veilleux gave the Lightning a 4-1 lead at the first intermission after Alexander Semin put the Capitals on the board at 14:05.
Washington countered with three goals in the middle frame from Eric Fehr and Mike Green, who scored his second goal of the period on the power play to tie the game at 12:08. St. Louis, however, recorded his 12th of the season with the man advantage to put Tampa Bay up 5-4 heading into the third and final period.
“You’ve got to give our guys credit. When they [Washington] tied it up, we could have wilted. With a 4-1 lead, they [Washington] came back, but we stayed strong and our power play came through for us tonight,” Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said. “We went with two units, moved a couple of people around, and it made a big difference.”
“I thought the guys did a great job of realizing that it wasn’t over. Obviously they’re a pretty potent offensive team, so it was tough. They came back and made a game out of it, but the guys did a good job of refocusing and not getting too down, and we got some big goals,” Stamkos said.
Kurtis Foster regained the two-goal lead at the four-minute mark in the third and Jeff Halpern buried one in the back of the net on a 3-on-2 odd man rush to open the Bolts home stand with a win.
“Every game is important for us now,” Stamkos added. “The Eastern Conference is so tight that we can’t afford to lose lots of games, and especially against this team, it’s a big confidence booster.”
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