TAMPA, Fla. – Michele Ouellet scored one goal and added an assist, but Tomas Fleischmann’s overtime winner lifted the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. Dropping a 4-3 decision at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Bay Lightning hosted the Capitals for the fourth and final time this season.
Jeff Halpern and Alexandre Picard scored the first two Lightning goals as the club dropped only the decision through their previous six games on home ice. Tampa Bay held league-leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin off the scoresheet, but Sergei Fedorov and Brooks Laich each posted a pair of points for Washington.
Ovechkin tested goaltender Karri Ramo early in the contest when he skated into the zone before stopping at the top of the left circle. Cutting across to the slot, Ovechkin fired a wrist shot, but Ramo held on for the save.
Shortly after the teams skated four-on-four, opening up the ice for a fast play between Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. After tapping the puck back and forth with St. Louis on a give-and-go play, Lecavalier approached the right wing and dropped a backwards pass between his legs to Dan Boyle. The Lightning defenseman wristed a hard shot, but netminder Cristobel Huet caught the puck.
With two minutes remaining in the period, the clubs exchanged a pair of goals to skate into the second tied at one.
Connecting at 17:58 of the first, Laich opened the scoring with his 20th goal of the season. Skating short-handed, Fedorov fed the puck from the left wing circle to Laich at the slot. As Laich skated to the front of the net, he faked the backhand before moving to the forehand, putting a shot to the right of Ramo.
Tampa Bay responded 42 seconds later when Halpern connected on the power play. Although Halpern jumped up in the crease to avoid a slap shot by Ouellet from the left point, Huet made the initial pad save. Halpern turned to gain control of the rebound at the goal mouth, banging the puck to the five-hole.
The goal stood as Halpern’s 18th of the season, his eighth goal in 14 games since joining the Lightning. Halpern has points in seven of his previous eight games.
A little more than three minutes into the middle frame, Matt Bradley scored his seventh goal of the season to re-gain the Washington lead. As a shot by Tom Poti was tipped on its way to the net, Bradley grabbed the puck and dropped it to the ice. The Capitals winger snapped the puck to Ramo’s stick side for the score.
Tampa Bay tied the game less than three minutes later, but not before Ramo held on to an Ovechkin wrist shot off the right wing side. The Lightning netminder also got help from his net when a shot by Matt Cooke from the left hask marks rang off the right post.
At the six minute mark of the frame, Picard notched his third goal of the season to tie the game at two. As Lecavalier won an offensive-zone face off back to the blue line, Picard fired a one-timed slap shot that beat Huet high to the stick side.
With his assist on the play, Lecavalier recorded his 600th career point, his 90th of the season. The Lightning center has recorded 40 goals and 50 assists to become the first Lightning player to record back-to-back 90-point seasons.
Later in the frame Viktor Kozlov skated hard down the right wing side before putting on the breaks in the circle. Kozlov fed a pass back to the point where Mike Green fired a slap shot through traffic. Ramo smothered the puck for the save.
The Lightning responded with a chance as the clock wound down. Feeding a pass through the zone, Shane O’Brien found Vincent Lecavalier alone at the right faceoff dot. Lecavalier one-timed a shot, but Huet got across the goal line in time to drop and cover the shot.
Early in the final period Huet held off a wrist shot by Boyle as the Lightning defenseman snapped the puck through traffic at the side of the net. Despite Huet’s efforts, Ouellet connected at 6:51 to give Tampa Bay their first lead of the night.
After pulling the puck away from Milan Jurcina at the left side of the goal line, Mathieu Darche skated behind the net. Darche passed the puck out to the right circle where Ouellet snapped a shot into the top of the net over Huet’s left shoulder.
Ouellet’s goal was his 17th of the season, giving the Lightning winger 10 goals in his previous 16 games.
Shortly after the score, Ouellet looked for his second goal of the period when Darche fed him the puck at the right circle. Cutting to the net, Ouellet got off a shot but was denied by Huet. Although the Capitals netminder lost sight of the puck as it fell to the crease, Huet dropped down to beat Darche to the rebound.
With less than five minutes remaining in the contest Alexander Semin scored his 24th goal of the season to force overtime. As Fedorov won a faceoff back to the top of the slot, Semin snapped the puck into the top of the net.
The Lightning went on to open overtime with a pair of slap shots by O’Brien and Lecavalier, but Huet made pad saves on both attempts. At 2:27 of the extra frame, Fleischman scored his ninth goal of the season to claim the win.
After Laich carried the puck to edge of the crease from behind the net, he fed a pass to Fleischmann in the goal mouth. Fleischmann dived to get off his shot, putting the puck into the open side of the net.
Tampa Bay held Washington scoreless through three power play opportunities, but were out-shot 32-26 in the contest. Ramo made 28 saves for the decision, dropping only his second game in his previous six starts on home ice.
The Lightning continue their final home stand of the season on Saturday, March 29 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) with a match-up against the Carolina Hurricanes. The game marks the seventh of eight meetings between the clubs, the last of four, at the St. Pete Times Forum.