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The Caps overcame a slew of third-period adversity on Thursday night at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, losing hold of a two-goal lead, the momentum in the game, and worst of all, the services of winger T.J. Oshie. But they held firm against one of the League’s elite teams in a tough building despite all they faced in a frenzied final frame, skating away with a 5-3 victory.

Rasmus Sandin’s goal with 4:59 remaining snapped a 3-3 tie, lifting the Caps to their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 17-21.

“I thought we were just so composed,” says Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery. “Even after giving up those two goals quickly [early in the third], the composure on the bench our next shifts after that, you could just tell that it wasn’t a team that was rattled, and it wasn’t a team that was going to let a couple of bad scenarios determine our fate.”

The Capitals have not trailed on the scoreboard at any point in these three games, but they’ve also lost a stalwart regular in each of the three triumphs; blueliner Martin Fehervary (lower body) was lost early in Saturday’s win in Montreal, and Nic Dowd (upper body) departed Tuesday’s win over the Devils in the first period, and then Oshie in the third period of Thursday’s game.

The Caps carried a 3-1 lead into the third against the Lightning, only to see it vanish when the Bolts erupted for two goals in 24 seconds early in the third. When Dylan Strome answered back for Washington just over a minute later, the Caps appeared to have quelled the Tampa Bay uprising, but only until the Bolts made a successful coach’s challenge to take the goal off the board – Anthony Mantha was ruled offside on the play.

Washington then snuffed out a third straight Lightning power play to keep the game even. Late in the period, Aliaksei Protas spotted Sandin coming off the bench and straight down Broadway; both the Protas feed and the Sandin shot were perfect. The Caps’ defenseman scored from the slot to make it 4-3, and Connor McMichael iced it with his second goal of the game, an empty-netter that accounted for the 5-3 final.

“Both Stromer and Pro made a great play there,” recounts Sandin. “I just got on the ice, and it was a little bit of a scramble for the blue line. Pro found me – there was a big hold in the middle – and luckily I capitalized on it today. But it felt extra good after I gave the puck back to [the Lightning], and they scored the 3-3 goal because I messed up. It felt good to get that one back.”

For the third time in as many games, Washington got the scoring started before the four-minute mark of the first frame. The Caps struck on the forecheck, with Beck Malenstyn putting a hard hit on Bolts’ blueliner Emil Lilleberg in the corner of Lightning ice, jarring the puck loose to where Nicolas Aubé-Kubel could collect it higher in the zone. From there, it was all Aubé-Kubel. First, he put an indirect pass to himself off the right half wall, then he cut to the cage and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a backhander, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead at 2:30 of the first.

Both teams had power play opportunities in the first, but neither was able to capitalize. Caps’ goalie Charlie Lindgren made a stellar glove stop on Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point late in the Tampa Bay power play, and less than two minutes later, the Caps doubled their lead with another goal off the forecheck.

Tampa Bay blueliner Haydn Fleury went into the corner of his own end to retrieve a Washington dump in, but before he could make a play, Caps’ winger Tom Wilson put a bump on him, separating him from the puck. Wilson pushed it to Joel Edmundson on the left wing half wall, and Edmundson went to Connor McMichael in the slot. McMichael’s wrist shot eluded Vasilevskiy for a 2-0 Washington lead at 16:19.

Fleury left the game at that point and did not return, leaving the Lightning with five defensemen the rest of the way.

Midway through the middle period, Tampa Bay cut into the Caps’ cushion with a bit of a tic-tac-toe goal that culminated with a Brandon Hagel finish from the slot at 9:16.

At that point of the game, Carbery altered his lines slightly, putting McMichael with Wilson and Alex Ovechkin, and putting Strome in the middle of a trio with Mantha and Oshie. A couple of shifts later, the Caps restored their two-goal lead when the Strome line struck.

After getting a defensive zone stop, the Caps broke the puck out and caught a break when a Lightning defender lost his footing in neutral ice, giving the Caps numbers as Oshie pushed the puck to Strome. The latter carried into Tampa Bay ice and patiently waited for the perfect moment to feed Mantha, who was riding shotgun. Mantha’s one-timer made it a 3-1 game at 12:14 of the second.

Nick Paul cut the Caps’ lead to a single goal with a nifty shot to the shelf off the rush at 2:42 of the third, and Tyler Motte tied it up when Sandin lost the handle deep in his own end 24 seconds later.

The Caps did well to get the momentum back when Strome scored the goal that was ultimately taken off the board, and they did even better to battle through a third Lightning power play and the loss of Oshie, handing the Lightning its third straight setback in the process.

“Our guys competed hard,” says Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Did we do some dumb things? We did. It doesn’t take away the fact that they competed hard. Bottom line is, did we have a chance to win the game? We most certainly did. Did we put ourselves in that position? We most certainly did. And we grew as the game went on.

“It’s just tough. You fall behind, and it’s a tough League to come back in. We found a way to do it. But basically, it’s a tie game with five minutes to go at home, and you don’t get any points from it. That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

There were tough pills to swallow on both sides in Thursday’s game.

“It was pretty wild,” says Lindgren of the third period. “Obviously we knew they were going to push – down two goals – and they scored two goals in probably under a minute. But yeah, they came hard, and Stromer scored the one that got called off; that was a tough pill to swallow.

“But again, just doing a good job of regrouping, making sure that we keep on pushing, because we know how important this game is tonight, and to get two points in a tough environment against a really good team is a huge two points for our group.”

Three straight wins now, and 4-1-1 in their last six, the Caps will conclude this Florida tour on Saturday against the Panthers, another of the League’s top teams, and another team with a highly dangerous power play.

“Again, it’s the character of the group,” says Carbery. “We’re just fighting, scratching, clawing. The penalty kill did an unbelievable job tonight against the best power play in the National Hockey League. Give our guys a lot of credit for just fighting for every inch tonight, and staying composed in this situation, in a hostile environment, and finding a way to win despite losing guys left, right and center, and finding a way to get two points in a really tough building.”