Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin kept the Washington Capitals' disappointing homestand from being a lot worse.
Johansson forced overtime by scoring with 3:58 left in regulation and Ovechkin fired home a wrister with 51 seconds left in OT as the Caps ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2.
Ovechkin, a two-time NHL MVP mired in his poorest season, zipped home a perfect pass from Dmitry Orlov, then celebrated the end of his four-game point drought by racing over to leap into the boards. His last point before Thursday's game was an OT winner against the Islanders last Tuesday in the first game of the homestand -- they lost the three games in between.
The two points gave the Caps 72, two behind Florida for first place in the Southeast Division, and moved them -- at least temporarily -- into eighth place in the East, pending the result of Winnipeg's game in Vancouver.
"It's a big win," Caps coach Dale Hunter said. "Every game is like a playoff game right now. It was a playoff game out there. This is what usually happens in playoffs, it's a battle."
The Lightning settled for one point and have 69.
"It's disappointing from where we were," coach Guy Boucher said, "but you come in here and get a point, it's not supposed to be disappointing. Just a dumb play that last one. We talk about it all the time. That puck has to get out on the board. We have one, two, three, four chances to get it out and then it's in the middle and we're right there … It's young guys and they're going to learn."
The goals by Johansson and Ovechkin spoiled the first NHL start by rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski, who played well for of the game. The 22-year-old was recalled from Norfolk of the AHL on Wednesday, a day after Mathieu Garon went down with a groin injury.
"I thought he was great. He was excellent. He battled," Lightning defenseman Mike Commodore said. "The puck hit him and there were no rebounds."
Teddy Purcell helped the Lightning take the lead by extending his point streak to 11 games with a goal and an assist on power plays. He has seven goals and 15 assists during that run.
Midway through the second period, Tampa Bay rookie forward Brett Connolly was hit in the head by what appeared to be an elbow from Washington defenseman Mike Green. Connolly stayed down on the ice for a bit, then was taken toward the locker room. He returned before the end of the period.
Orlov had Connolly pinned against the boards when Green came in and knocked Connolly down. There was no penalty called.
Washington led 1-0 after the first period on Keith Aucoin's goal. Ryan Malone tied it for the Lightning at 7:25 of the second when Steven Stamkos' pass went in off his skate, and Purcell was credited with the go-ahead goal when his shot went in off Capitals defenseman John Carlson's skate at 18:42.
The Capitals managed only three shots in the middle period and were serenaded with boos from the sellout crowd. But the Caps dominated the third period and the overtime.
"They were playing their 1-3-1 or 1-2-2, and we just had to get the pucks in deep and work," Hunter said. "There's not going to be the two-on-ones and three-on-twos where you can make pretty plays. We just had to get it in deep and work. It creates scoring chances."
Tokarski, who is 20 years younger than Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, was brought up from the minors because Garon left Tampa Bay's 7-3 loss to Ottawa on Tuesday after only four minutes with a groin injury that will keep him out for at least three weeks. Tokarski played a total of 44 minutes as a replacement in two games in October 2010, but he had never been in net to begin an NHL game.
"I feel real bad for him – first NHL game in a tough building," Purcell said. "I remember my first game and how nervous everyone is – especially for a goaltender with all the offensive power [the Capitals] have."
The Capitals tested Tokarski right away, peppering him with shots from all over and taking the first five, all of which he saved without much trouble.
Washington went ahead 1-0 at 17:08 of the first when defenseman Karl Alzner's shot from near the blue line hit Aucoin's skate, then his stick -- and then the back of the net.
The Lightning tied it when Stamkos' pass went off Malone's skate on a power play and deflected past Tomas Vokoun. The call stood after a video review showed Malone didn't kick the puck in. Purcell scored when his shot caromed off Carlson and into the net.
Alzner said the Caps got a talking to from Hunter after the second period.
"His message was basically just to man up -- play hard and play as a team," Alzner said. "We had a lot of one-on-one play and a lot of turnovers. It was one of the ‘keys' that we had on the board, was no turnovers. He yelled at us pretty much for one of the first times that he has ever yelled at us, and the guys just snapped out of it."
Material from team media was used in this report