Neither one of the league’s two hottest goal scorers in Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos could find the back of the net on Friday night.
At least for the Washington Capitals captain, Antero Niittymaki was a big reason why.
The Lightning net minder stopped 28 of 30 shots, Vincent Lecavalier scored for the fourth time in his last five games, and the Tampa Bay Lightning ended Washington’s league-leading 15-game regulation home unbeaten streak with a 3-2 win at the Verizon Center.
Niittymaki won for the 10th time in his last 16 starts and improved his record to 9-3-1 in his last 14 games, while not allowing more than two goals in 10 of those contests.
Steven Stamkos’ league-best 18-game point streak, a mark that included a season-high seven games with a goal, was snapped, despite firing six shots on net.
“He’s got a gift that not many players have. When you give him a pass, he usually puts it in the back of the net, and that makes being around him that much better,” defenseman Kurtis Foster said.
Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich each had power play goals for Washington, who lost for just the second time in its last six, and for the first time at home in regulation since the Carolina Hurricanes beat them at the Verizon Center back on Dec. 28.
Brandon Bochenski added a goal for Tampa Bay, and Matt Walker also scored, giving the Lightning defenseman his second goal in the last three games.
Fleischmann beat Niittymaki from the right hash marks on the power play to open scoring at 16:54 in the first.
Bochenski tied it at one approximately two minutes later, while finishing off an odd-man rush by sending a wrist shot high over the shoulder of Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov finished with 24 saves.
“It was a 2-on-1 and I saw I had a little bit of room so I took the shot, and it’s been a long time coming. I’ve had a lot of chances so it was nice to get that one, that’s for sure,” Bochenski said.
Walker put Tampa Bay up by a goal with a slap shot from the left circle at 11:30 in the second period, and set up another just minutes later when a shot from the blue line deflected off of Lecavalier’s body before bouncing through the five hole of Varlamov. The goal was initially waved off, but was awarded after further review to give the Bolts a 3-1 lead heading into the final period.
“I felt it hit my arm, so it was obvious for me. The referee thought it hit my stick and that it was above the cross bar, but he wasn’t at the best angle, so it was tough for him to make the call, but it ended up going in,” Lecavalier said.
Washington cut the deficit to one with its second goal coming on the man advantage, as Laich knocked down a shot out in front before putting it into the back of the net.
Niittymaki made key saves down the stretch during the final nine minutes to preserve the win, as Tampa Bay wrapped up the final match of its three-game road stand with its third point on the trip.
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