Lecavalier Nets Two Goals, St. Louis, Three Assists
Despite falling behind 3-0 in the opening period, the Lightning battled back to close the gap to one goal before the Washington Capitals re-opened the advantage to win 7-4 at the Verizon Center in Washington.
The Capitals struck early and often in the opening period, beginning at 3:58 when Washington defenseman Sean Collins launched the puck toward Lightning netminder Mike Smith from the top of the left faceoff circle. The puck crept into the net via Smith’s five hole and the Capitals had a 1-0 lead and Collins had his first NHL goal.
The Capitals collected goal number two at 8:02 as Matt Bradley feathered a goalmouth pass which David Steckel tapped into the Lightning net.
Washington closed out the first period scoring at 18:29 when Alex Ovechkin found defenseman Mike Greene skating alone down the left side of the ice. Greene teed up the pass and fired the puck into the twine.
Despite having to climb out of a 3-0 deficit, the Lightning demonstrated that they weren’t finished yet as Vincent Lecavalier collected goal number 15; his first on what would eventually be two on the night, just 58 seconds into the second period. Lecavalier, breaking in on a two-on-one with Vaclav Prospal, gathered the cross-ice pass and roofed it past Capital goaltender Brent Johnson. Martin St. Louis was also credited with an assist.
Ninety-nine seconds later the Lightning connected again as Jeff Halpern capitalized on a Washington turnover and set up Ryan Malone, trailing the play in the high slot, for Malone’s ninth goal of the season. The goal cut Washington’s lead to one goal, 3-2, but the momentum wouldn’t stand up for long.
The Lightning were victimized just 11 seconds later when, with Smith away from his crease to play the puck, Bradley took advantage of a turnover in the Tampa Bay zone to re-establish a two-goal lead.
Adam Hall had a golden opportunity to cut the capital lead back to one goal when he was awarded a penalty shot at 9:59. Johnson denied his attempt when he gloved Hall’s forehand blast.
The see-saw scoring in the period wasn’t over yet, however, as Lecavalier pulled the Lightning to within one goal with only 16 seconds remaining in the stanza. Martin St. Louis stole the puck behind the capital net and fed the puck to Prospal at the left of the
crease. As Johnson moved out to cut down his shooting angle, Prospal flipped the puck to Lecavalier who found the open net for his team-leading 16th goal.
The third period opened with Tampa Bay trailing the Capitals by just one score, but Washington, boasting the top home record in the NHL, was up to the challenge.
At 8:07, Washington center Boyd Gordon flagged down an errant Smith clearing attempt and scored into the empty Lightning net.
Tampa Bay, skating without defensemen Paul Ranger and Lukas Krajicek due to injuries, lost another defenseman when veteran Jamie Heward was checked hard into the boards with 13:15 remaining and had to be removed from the ice on a stretcher.
When the game resumed, Mark Recchi pulled Tampa Bay back to within one goal at 12:22, when he carried the puck into the Capital end and fired a shot which hit the post to Johnson’s right before ricocheting into the net. St. Louis was awarded his third assist of the game on Recchi’s ninth goal of the season. St. Louis, Tampa Bay’s leading scorer, now has tallied seven assists in the last three games.
As they had all game, Washington came right back, this time just 25 seconds later, when Chris Clark converted a pass from Michael Nylander to re-establish a two-goal advantage with just over seven minutes remaining to play.
Alex Ovechkin closed out the Capital win with 1:46 remaining when he broke across the crease and fired a snapshot that slipped through Smith’s pads for the final goal of the game. The score gave Ovechkin his third point of the contest.
In the losing effort, Smith stopped 28 of 35 shots while Lecavalier led the Lightning with five shots on net. Defenseman Matt Smaby recorded a game-high six hits.
For the Lightning, seeking to claw their way back into the playoff race, it’s back to Tampa to face division rival Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum. The home game will be the last for a while, as the Lightning then embark on a five-game western road swing before returning home on January 15th to face the Philadelphia Flyers.
1 - 0 WSH
2 - 0 WSH
3 - 0 WSH
Martin St. Louis
3 - 1 WSH
3 - 2 WSH
4 - 2 WSH
Martin St. Louis
4 - 3 WSH
5 - 3 WSH
Martin St. Louis
5 - 4 WSH