The Washington Capitals did not prevent the Lightning from earning points in the standings for a fifth consecutive game nearly as much as the goal posts did.
But even a few bad bounces didn’t stop Tampa Bay from trying.
Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos scored a pair of goals nearly three minutes apart in the final period to erase a two-goal deficit and tie the game, but the Lightning’s tireless come-from-behind effort fell just short in a 3-2 loss to the Southeast division rival Capitals.
St. Louis’ goal at 5:00 in the last frame was his third in as many consecutive matches, while Stamkos extended his point streak to six games.
Kurtis Foster, one of three Tampa Bay players who collected a pair of points on the night, added two assists for Tampa Bay, who moved to 3-1-1 in its last five.
Washington matched a franchise record of 10 consecutive wins, receiving goals from Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin.
Tomas Fleischmann also added a pair of helpers for Washington.
“They’re an offensive juggernaut. They’ve got over 200 goals this year and you can tell they really like to push the puck,” Foster said.
Tampa Bay nearly put the first tally on the board halfway through the opening stanza when defenseman Matt Walker fired a slap shot from the blue line off the post.
Backstrom, however, opened scoring on the power play when he poked the puck five-hole though goaltender Mike Smith after the initial save resulted in a rebound in front of the crease.
Smith stopped 28 of 31 shots in his first start since Jan. 12 against the Capitals.
“They’re a team that if you give them too many shots, they can really hurt you,” Foster added.
Alex Tanguay came close to evening the score, but his deflection of Mike Lundin’s slap shot from the right circle ricocheted off the cross bar.
“On any goalie, as often as you put pucks on net, good things usually happen from it,” Tanguay said. “It’s [the shot off the crossbar] just the way it’s going for me right now, but I’ve been working hard and I’m trying. Hopefully I can start helping this team a little bit more and start producing a little more. I’ve worked too hard for it [the puck] not to go in and hopefully it will happen for me sooner than later.”
Washington extended the lead to 2-0 on Brooks Laich’s 16th of the season at 9:56, but St. Louis cut the deficit in half after redirecting a slap shot from Foster in the high slot.
Stamkos was next to hit the post moments later, but didn’t miss when he one-timed a pass from the left circle past Washington net minder Jose Theodore to tie the game with approximately twelve minutes remaining in regulation.
The mark with the man advantage moved the Lightning’s second-year forward into a tie for a league-best 12 goals on the power play, while placing him in sole possession of the NHL lead in overall points with the man advantage with 26.
Ovechkin wristed one past Smith at 13:34 to regain the Capitals’ lead with what proved to be the game-winner with his 35th goal of the season.
“We played well, we had chances, I feel like we limited their chances, but I think all and all we were in this game,” Tanguay added. “We felt like we could win it.”
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