Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos reached a milestone Tuesday versus the Washington Capitals, scoring the 250th goal of his National Hockey League career.
The Capitals spoiled the celebration at Amalie Arena, however, defeating the Lightning 5-3 in front of 17,109.
Washington’s Troy Brouwer provided the game-winner, slipping a shot past Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop at 10:52 of the third period to put the Caps ahead 4-2.
Trailing by a goal entering the final period, the Lightning (18-8-3, 39 points) played their best hockey of the night to start the third, creating a number of dangerous scoring chances and keeping sustained pressure on Washington goaltender Braden Holtby (33 saves).
The Caps withstood the charge, though, and recaptured momentum on Brouwer’s seventh goal of the season to win their third in a row.
“Every time we pushed, they kind of held serve, and then that fourth goal’s a tough one,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s a back breaker that one. We just couldn’t push ourselves over the top.”
Valtteri Filppula, assisted by Tyler Johnson and Victor Hedman, drew the Lightning (18-8-3, 39 points) within a score on an empty-net goal with 2.9 seconds remaining, too late to tie and send the game to overtime.
Washington won the ensuing faceoff, and Alex Ovechkin scored with Bishop sitting on the bench for the 5-3 final.
“I thought it was a pretty even hockey game tonight, and I think there were a couple of those bounces tonight that just didn’t go our way and went their’s,” Cooper said.
The Lightning are on a two-game losing streak for just the third time and first at Amalie Arena this season. The Bolts have dropped three of their last four.
“It’s not a lack of work ethic or anything like that,” Hedman said. “I think we work hard, but there are small defects in our game we have to clean up.”
Stamkos scored No. 250 just 47 seconds into the second period, tying the score 2-2 after the Lightning trailed by a goal following one period of play. From the slot, Stamkos rifled a well-placed wrist shot past Holtby with assists to Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman.
At 24 years, 305 days old, Stamkos becomes the tenth-youngest player in NHL history to score No. 250, slotting between Michel Goulet (24 years, 302 days) and Jaromir Jagr (24 years, 312 days).
“I think we’ve been blessed in the area to have him play for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he is just continuing, he’ll just continue to do things in front of this home crowd that we should appreciate because goal scorers like him don’t come around that often,” Cooper said.
Minutes after Stamkos’ achievement, Washington (13-10-4, 30 points) went back in the lead, Brooks Laich poking the puck past Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop on the back post to put the Caps ahead 3-2 at 4:30 of the second period.
“I feel like we haven’t played horribly,” Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula said. “I feel like we fix a few things and hopefully get our power play working as well.”
Tampa Bay had three consecutive power-play opportunities in the second period but couldn’t take advantage of any of them. The Bolts have gone two games in a row and three of their last four without a power-play goal.
Filppula had a chance to erase that stretch of futility on Tampa Bay’s final power play, but his shot from the right edge hit the far post and trickled underneath Holtby, who fell down on the puck and was pushed into the net with the puck by Callahan and Alex Killorn. The referee waived off the goal and confirmed the call on video replay, the NHL Situation Room ruling that the whistle had blown, stopping play before Holtby was pushed across the goal line.
“When you get three straight chances, you have to get a goal,” Hedman said. “I think in the last one, we had some good looks and got closer, (Filppula) hit the post, but obviously that’s a tough one to swallow.”
Any thoughts Tampa Bay had of getting off to a fast start were quickly dashed once the opening puck dropped. Washington showed a willingness to play physical from the jump and pounced on the Lightning early when Ovechkin squeezed a shot underneath Bishop 40 seconds into the game.
“It’s tough too when you give up a goal in the first minute,” Cooper said. “That just kind of takes the air out of the tires a little bit, chasing the game, but we kept responding and we just couldn’t get it over the top.”
Brian Boyle tallied his sixth goal of the season to knot the score 1-1 at 13:49 of the opening period. Hedman sent a shot from the blue line toward goal, and Boyle tipped the puck past Holtby with Brenden Morrow providing a distraction in front of the net.
“I thought the way we responded, we came hard, we had a lot of chances, but we come in here to win,” Boyle said. “That’s the only reason we come here, to try and win the games. If we don’t win the game, it’s an unsuccessful night.”
Hedman finished with three assists, his fourth multi-point game in 11 contests this season.
The Caps retook the lead almost immediately, Matt Niskanen putting a slap shot from just outside the left circle past Bishop on the power play. Washington was awarded the man advantage after Cedric Paquette was given four minutes in the penalty box for roughing Tom Wilson on the faceoff following Boyle’s goal. Wilson was sent to the box for two minutes, but Niskanen, from Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson at 14:23 of the first, capitalized on the extra time handed out to Paquette.
Tampa Bay sent 36 shots at Holtby but surrendered 35 shots on their own net. Bishop stopped 30-of-34 shots but dropped to 16-5-2 for the season.
The Lightning conclude their current four-game homestand Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes (puck drop 7:30 p.m.) before embarking on a five-game-in-eight days road trip to the northeast.
Eleven of Tampa Bay’s next 15 following the Carolina home game will come away from Amalie Arena.
“This is respond time because we have one more home game and then it’s 11 of 15 on the road,” Cooper said. “You’ve got to keep banking points, and we’ve let a few slip here at home…We’re going to need a monumental effort here Thursday to put an end to this.”