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Ovechkin sets scoring mark by left wings in Capitals' 4-1 win over Lightning

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals

WASHINGTON - Alex Ovechkin's record-setting goal was scored in such close quarters that it took some 20 minutes and a host of replay angles before he got credit for it. He left no doubt when he scored again, unleashing a blistering shot that put the Washington Capitals one step closer to the playoffs.

Serenaded again with chants of "M-V-P!" from the red-clad sellout crowd, Ovechkin broke Luc Robitaille's single-season NHL record for most goals by a left wing with his 64th and 65th scores Thursday night to lead the Capitals to a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The win put the Capitals into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, although they have only one game left to play while most of their rivals for the final playoff spots still have two to go. Washington likely needs to beat Florida at home in Saturday's regular season finale to reach the post-season for the first time since 2003 - and for the first time in Ovechkin's young career.

The 22-year-old Russian tied the game - and passed Robitaille - in the first period after the nothing-to-play-for Lightning had stunned the crowd with a goal in the first minute. Ovechkin then gave the Capitals the lead with 12:10 to play in the game with a drive from the top of the left circle and just under the crossbar for his 22nd power-play goal, tying Peter Bondra's team record.

The Capitals have won six in a row - their longest winning streak since Jan. 8-19, 2000 - and 10 of 11. They also notched their 17th comeback victory under coach Bruce Boudreau, who took over a last place team when Glen Hanlon was fired in November.

Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti added insurance goals late in the third period, and Cristobal Huet made 18 saves for his eighth straight win, the longest streak for a Capitals goalie since Pete Peeters won nine in a row from Jan. 28 to March 3, 1987. Huet is 10-2 since he was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline.

The Lightning, playing out the string in last place, dropped their third straight overall and fifth in a row on the road. They lost leading scorer Vincent Lecavalier with 13:15 remaining in the game when he fell awkwardly after a hit by Washington's Milan Jurcina. Lecavalier lay on the ice for a few minutes and clutched his wrist as he was helped off.

For the Capitals, the evening had the trappings of a letdown game, coming against a struggling team two days after a high-energy victory over division leader Carolina. Sure enough, the Lightning needed only 39 seconds to take the lead, with Filip Kuba flipping in the puck after Huet was unable to control a rebound.

The Capitals thought they had tied the score less than 90 seconds later when Brooks Laich put in a rebound, but the goal was disallowed in an unusual case of second-hand goaltender interference. Washington's Tomas Fleischmann pushed defenceman Matt Smaby into goalie Karri Ramo, who had come well outside of the crease.

Ovechkin evened the score for real later in the first period when Viktor Kozlov drove to the crease on a 2-on-2 break. The puck came loose and deflected off defenceman Alexandre Picard's skate and into the net. Kozlov was initially credited with the goal before replays showed Ovechkin got his stick on it before it hit the skate.

Ramo kept the Lightning in the game for two periods and finished with 37 saves. Washington outshot Tampa Bay 40-19.

Notes: Robitaille had 63 goals with Los Angeles in the 1992-93 season. ... Bondra's 22 power-play goals for the Capitals came in the 2000-01 season. ... Tampa Bay D Paul Ranger missed his eighth straight game with a shoulder injury. ... The Capitals played without D Shaone Morrisonn (upper body injury), giving Steve Eminger a chance to dress. Eminger played in just his 19th game of the season. ... The Capitals have won five straight at Verizon Center, outscoring the opposition 16-6.

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