TAMPA, Fla. – Steven Stamkos scored his NHL-leading 33rd goal at 2:45 of overtime, giving the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
Martin St. Louis had a second-period goal and assisted on the game-winner, sending a point-blank shot off goalie Tomas Vokoun’s pads and giving Stamkos an opportunity to tap in the rebound. The sequence began with Tampa Bay goalie Mathieu Garon stopping two shots at the other end of the ice.
Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer scored for the Capitals, who rallied from a two-goal deficit to force overtime despite playing without suspended star Alex Ovechkin.
Garon finished with 26 saves, two of them in the extra period with routine stops on shots by Brouwer and Brooks Laich — the latter winding up with St. Louis, who skated up the right side before crossing in front of Vokoun, who earlier in overtime made a diving glove save on Vincent Lecavalier.
This time, the puck bounced off the goalie’s pads and Stamkos, who had an assist on Tampa Bay’s first goal of the night, sealed the Lightning’s season-best fifth straight win. Vokoun stopped 27-of-31 shots.
The Capitals played without Ovechkin, who’s serving a three-game suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek. The star left wing also sat out his team’s final game before the all-star break — a 5-3 victory over Boston — and will miss Wednesday night’s game at Florida before being eligible to return at Montreal on Saturday.
Washington also was without centre Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed 11 games since being elbowed in the head and is out indefinitely.
The Lightning winning streak follows a season-high seven-game skid that dropped Tampa Bay to last place in the Eastern Conference. St. Louis extended his points streak to seven games and Stamkos’ goal and assist on Teddy Purcell’s first-period goal gave the Tampa Bay all-star 24 points over his last 20 games.
Hendricks gave Washington a 1-0 lead when he whiffed on a shot only to recover by spinning around to lift a backhander past Garon. Purcell countered less than two minutes later, and St. Louis put the Lightning ahead when he took advantage of Washington defenceman Roman Hamrlik falling down to skate in on Vokoun to slip the puck between the goalie’s legs.
Tampa Bay’s Nate Thompson made it 3-1 in the third period, then helped Washington back into the game when Perreault centred the puck from behind the net and Thompson inadvertently tipped it into the net. Perreault, who had first career hat trick in last week’s win over Boston, was credited with his eighth goal of the season, pulling the Capitals to 3-2.
Brouwer’s unassisted goal made it 3-3 with just over 14 minutes remaining in the third period.
NOTES: Lightning founder and broadcaster Phil Esposito issued a statement, thanking the “hockey fraternity,” as well as the Tampa Bay community for “thoughts, prayers and well wishes” following the death of one of his daughters in Germany. The team said Carrie Esposito Selivanov died Monday after suffering from an illness. She was married to former Lightning star Alex Selivanov. Private funeral services are planned this week in Germany. … The Capitals fell to 8-14-2 on the road, including 4-7-2 under coach Dale Hunter. … Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman played after missing 13 games because of a concussion. Forwards Ryan Shannon (knee), J.T. Wyman (hand) and Tom Pyatt (leg) also returned from injuries.