Washington Capitals fought back from a two-goal deficit to tie Tampa Bay and send the game to overtime, Lightning coach Guy Boucher had a message for his team.
"I told them to stay in the moment," Boucher said. "It's not what just happened; it's what we're going to do next."
For Steven Stamkos, the moment came at 2:45 of the overtime when he scored his League-leading 33rd goal to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night, extending the Lightning's winning streak to a season-high five games.
Both teams had great scoring opportunities in the overtime but Tomas Vokoun stopped Vincent Lecavalier with a highlight-reel glove save and Mathieu Garon stopped a shot from Alexander Semin from close in. Martin St. Louis then broke in alone on Vokoun, who made the save but had no chance to control the rebound. Stamkos banged it into the net for his third OT winner of the season.
"It's nice to get rewarded in a big situation like that," Stamkos said. "I was just telling myself to keep plugging away. There's only so many chances you can have before it goes in."
Both teams showed the effects of the All-Star layoff, as the game was marked by turnovers and sloppy play.
"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."
Washington (26-20-3) snapped a four-game first goal streak for the Lightning (22-23-4) when Matt Hendricks found himself alone in the slot, 30 feet in front of Garon, after picking up a centering pass from Brooks Laich. Hendricks fanned on his first attempt but spun around and backhanded the puck into the net for his second goal of the season.
"I don't know if it jumped or I just missed the puck," Hendricks said. "I just wanted to spin around and throw it back at the net."
That lead held up for less than two minutes then Teddy Purcell evened the score with his 13th goal of the season and fourth in four games.
Second period goals by St. Louis, who skated in alone and slipped a backhander under Vokoun's pads, and Nate Thompson, who scored from the slot, gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead. Thompson's goal was his second in as many games.
From there, the Capitals began to chip away, getting goals from Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer. Perreault received credit for Washington's second goal when his centering pass from behind the net hit Thompson's skate and deflected past Garon.
Brouwer's goal, his fifth in the three games the teams have played this season, came after he forced a Matt Gilroy turnover as the defenseman circled his own net.
"The first goal went over [Victor] Hedman's stick; second goal we put in our own net," Boucher said. "The third goal, that was one we certainly could have done differently, but that's our fault."
Washington went 0 for 3 on the power play, extending its slump to 1 for 19 with the extra attacker.
The Capitals certainly had their opportunities to win, as coach Dale Hunter pointed out.
"You're never happy to lose," Hunter said. "You go into overtime and we had a few chances at one end. Then they go down and get one in to get the extra point."
Garon stopped 26 shots for his 15th victory. Vokoun made 27 saves.
Stamkos also collected an assist on St. Louis' goal for a two-point night.
Hedman returned to action for the Lightning after missing 13 games due to a concussion. He played 18:38 and showed no ill effects from his injury.
But the hero was Stamkos, who scored his sixth game-winning goal of the season.
"Obviously, Stamkos was hungry and crashed the net," Boucher said of the winning goal. "That's a trademark of our team and will always be a trademark of our team. We certainly don't want to change that."