TAMPA, FL – The Tampa Bay Lightning returned to action Tuesday night to host the Washington Capitals and picked up right where they left off prior to the All-Star break in a 4-3 overtime victory in front of the 17,754 in attendance.
Washington’s Matt Hendricks drew first blood with a backhanded shot past Mathieu Garon after receiving a sweeping pass from Brooks Laich sprawled out on the ice.
“Wonderful second effort to get the puck over to me,” said Hendricks. “I don’t know if it jumped or if I just missed the puck, but I knew he (Laich) and Brouwer were going to the net, and I just wanted spin around and throw it back at the net.”
The expected rust from the six day break for both teams was shaken off by mediocre play Tuesday night. “There was rust out there; both teams had rust,” Boucher said. “We knew there would be. We wanted to be sure that our game, ugly or not, was still going to be consistent and progressive. And it was.”
Tampa Bay tallied three unanswered goals by Teddy Purcell, Martin St. Louis, and Nate Thompson to make it 3-1 halfway through the game.
A centering attempt from Mathieu Perreault below the goal line deflected off a well defensively positioned Thompson and finding the five hole of Garon to get the Capitals within one late in the second period.
A superb fore-check by Laich forcing a turnover that found the stick of Troy Brouwer 5:53 into the final frame tied the game at 3-3.
A little of two minutes left in overtime Martin St. Louis soared up the ice after recovering a puck poked away by Garon following an initial shot by Alexander Semin. St. Louis was in alone facing Tomas Vokoun who made the stop but was left out of position with the puck resting in the crease before NHL’s leading goal scorer, Steven Stamkos rushed the net and poked the puck into the back of the net to give Tampa Bay the additional point in the standings.
“It’s nice to get rewarded in a big situation like that,” said Stamkos. “I was just telling myself to keep plugging away. There’s only so many chances you can have before it goes in.”
Garon finished the game stopping 23 of 26 and was credited with an assist on the overtime game winner.
Moments before Stamkos’ overtime goal, Vincent Lecavalier had a chance to end the game but a larceny glove save by Vokoun prevented that from happening.
Vokoun stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced.
Notes: JT Wyman, Ryan Shannon, Tom Pyatt, and Victor Hedman coming off injuries all returned to the lineup Tuesday night. Alex Ovechkin served the second of his three game suspension handed out by NHL Senior VP of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan.
Pyatt and Wyman each recorded an assist in their first game back while Hedman recorded 18:38 of total ice time after missing 13 games.
The Lightning are now on a season-high, five-game win streak. They last won five straight when they won eight straight playoff games last year, starting with a Game 5 win in Pittsburgh in the first round and ending with a Game 1 in Boston in the third round.
Tampa Bay will continue their home stand on Thursday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 7:30PM.