Stamkos’ OT goal lifts Lightning past CapitalsBy FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Steven Stamkos’ persistence paid off, helping Tampa Bay continue a surge the Lightning hope will propel them back into playoff contention.
Stamkos scored his NHL-leading 33rd goal at 2:45 of overtime, giving the Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals and extending Tampa Bay’s season-best winning streak to five games.
The two-time All-Star matched a season-high with eight shots, though Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun managed to stop all of them until Stamkos tapped in a rebound for the game-winner.
“I thought I had quite a few chances,” Stamkos said. “It’s nice to get rewarded in a big situation like that.”
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 end it. The sequence began with Tampa Bay goalie Mathieu Garon stopping two shots at the other end of the ice.
“In overtime we pushed, we didn’t hold back,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “We weren’t scared to lose, we were hungry to win.”
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, finished. Vokoun stopped 27 of 31 shots.
“He played his heart out tonight,” Brouwer said of Vokoun. “He played real well, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get him a second point.”
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 center Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed 11 games since being elbowed in the head and is out indefinitely.
“We came back, but you’re never happy to lose,” Washington coach Dale Hunter said. “You go into overtime, we had two great chances at one end, they go down and have two chances, and they got the second one in.”
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 defenseman 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 centered 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.
“We just want to win games right now,” Stamkos said. “It was good we didn’t panic after they tied it up. We kept at it. We stuck to the structure and got rewarded.”
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 D 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.
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