Alex Ovechkin snapped his 5-game scoreless streak Saturday night, but the Washington Capitals losing skid extended to three as they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3.
Washington and Tampa traded goals for 40 minutes, entering the third period locked in a 3-3 tie before James Garrison broke the stalemate with the final go-ahead goal at 2:27 of the third period. With time running out in regulation, head coach Barry Trotz reunited Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but even the superstar duo were not able to notch the equalizing goal. Six of the last seven games between Washington and Tampa Bay have been decided by one goal.
The Caps, who are now 4-4-2, recorded their highest shot total of the season against the Bolts, but could not solve Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who turned aside 35 of 38 shots. Washington has now been outscored 12-7 over their last three games, all losses.
“Right now, the goals are coming way too easy for the opposition,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said.
Trotz noted, however, that his team has not been playing poorly throughout their losing streak.
“I mean, we’re doing a lot of good things,” he said. “We’re not getting rewarded. And, that’s what you need to keep pounding is, you keep doing the right things and you’ll get rewarded.”
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said that, considering Washington’s effort and execution, the results of their last few games have seemed “a little unfair.”
“That’s the way it is sometimes,” Backstrom said. “You just got to battle through it, and stick with the game plan and keep moving forward.”
While the Caps may have played better over their last three games than their record would indicate, they did acknowledge that they are having problems closing out teams once they have a lead, like they did early in the second period against Tampa.
“Our scoring touch just isn’t there,” Caps forward Troy Brouwer said. “We’re getting lots of chances, we’re getting lots of looks, but we’ve got to find ways to bury teams. You can count, three, four, … five games probably where, if we would have gotten the second goal when we had the lead, probably put teams out a bit. And, we haven’t been able to do that this season and that’s why our record is .500 right now.”
After a missed defensive assignment left forward Ryan Callahan alone in front of the Caps net, the former New York Rangers captain re-directed Brian Boyle’s shot from the point past Braden Holtby at 6:06 of the first period.
Ovechkin recorded his first point in five games on the Caps opening goal 6:53 later. Tripped up as he was breaking into Tampa’s defensive zone, the Caps captain still managed a shot. Marcus Johansson banged the rebound past Bishop’s blocker side to tie the game at 1 with 7:01 remaining in the first period.
Eric Fehr, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against Detroit on Wednesday, corralled his own rebound and fired a hard-angle shot past Bishop to give the Caps a 2-1 lead at 2:11 of the second period. Fehr has more career goals against Tampa Bay than any other team.
Ondrej Palat knotted the game at 2 at 9:29 of the second period and Nikita Kucherov deflected a harmless shot from the point past Holtby less than 3 minutes later to give the Bolts a 3-2 advantage.
With 59 seconds left in the second period, Brouwer capitalized on a power play to even the score at 3.
After cleanly winning a faceoff in the Caps defensive zone, Steven Stamkos sent a pass back to Garrison, who fired a long-range shot that deflected off of a Capitals skate and skittered past Holtby, giving the Lightning a 4-3 lead that they would not relinquish.
The Caps will not have time to sulk over this latest loss as they travel back to Washington to face the Phoenix Coyotes Sunday night at 7 p.m.