Lightning 4, Capitals 3, OT
Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:22 PM
The Tampa Bay Lightning came out of the All-Star Break in exactly the same fashion it went into it.
With a win and two huge points in the Eastern Conference standings.
Martin St. Louis
had a goal and an assist, and Steven Stamkos
beat goaltender Tomas Vokoun at 2:45 of overtime to give the Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals Tuesday night in front of a crowd of 17,754 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“It’s nice to get rewarded in a big situation like that,” Stamkos said. “I just kept telling myself to keep plugging away. There are only so many chances you can have before it goes in.”
After Garon came up with two huge saves in his own end, St. Louis led a rush up the ice and broke in all alone towards the net before Stamkos followed up on a rebound attempt and buried his league-leading 33rd goal of the season with 1:15 remaining in the extra period.
The victory was a season-high fifth in a row for the Lightning. Tampa Bay now sits eight points behind Washington for the top spot in the Southeast Division, and an equal number behind Toronto for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff position.
For the second straight game, the Capitals played without superstar forward Alex Ovechkin, who is currently serving a three-game suspension for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek.
The left wing also sat out his team's final game before the All-Star Break, a 5-3 victory over Boston, and will miss his team’s next game before being eligible to return on Saturday at Montreal.
The Capitals were also without forward Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed 11 games due to injury and is out indefinitely. Washington has lost three of the past four and four of its past six overall.
“We need the two points right now,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “These Southeast Division matchups are important for us, but that’s a good team over there and I thought we played a pretty decent game except for a couple of bad plays and turnovers.”
and Nate Thompson
had the other goals for Tampa Bay, which surrendered a two-goal lead late in the second period that allowed Washington to tie and force the game into extra frames.
Washington opened the scoring in the first period when Matt Hendricks put a nifty backhand above the left shoulder of Garon at 16:55. After he whiffed his initial attempt at a wrist shot, Hendricks regained control of the puck, spun around, and roofed a backhand that broke Tampa Bay’s streak of four consecutive games in which it had scored the game’s first goal.
Purcell then tied it 1:55 later after taking a perfect pass from Steve Downie
and tapping it home from the side of the net to draw the Lightning even.
Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer also scored for the Capitals, which wrap up the second half of a back-to-back set Wednesday night in Sunrise against the Panthers.
With things all tied up at one apiece heading out of the first break, Tampa Bay took its first lead of the game just 1:05 into the second to make it 2-1. St. Louis took a pass from Tom Pyatt
and skated in all alone against Vokoun before bringing the puck over to his backhand and slipping one through the five-hole for his 13th of the season.
The Bolts forward now has goals in three straight games for the first time all year during his current season-high seven-game point streak.
Thompson increased the Lightning lead to two at 10:59, then brought it back to one just 2:08 later after inadvertently putting a puck into his own net that brought the score to 3-2.
“It hit off my toe and went in,” Thompson said. “I had my first two-goal game tonight.”
A turnover by Matt Gilroy
in his own zone yielded Washington’s third goal of the night to Brouwer, who tied it at three. Gilroy tried to shake a defender on the play and skate the puck out of trouble, but instead gave it up to Brouwer who wristed one home past Garon at 5:53 of the final period.
Stamkos’ overtime winner was his third of the season. He has points in seven of his past nine games, including five goals in that span.
Garon earned his 15th win of the season by stopping 26 shots. Vokoun finished with 27 saves.
“Even when they scored that third goal, I kept saying on the bench, ‘be in the moment, be in the moment,’ Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “It’s not about what just happened, it’s about what we were going to do next. Then we pushed overtime and didn’t hold back. We didn’t skate to lose, we were playing to win.”