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Capitals-Lightning Preview

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Johan Holmqvist hasn't been able to finish either of his last two starts. Even the high-powered offense of the Tampa Bay Lightning can't overcome that kind of goaltending.

The Lightning try to rebound from their worst defensive performance in more than nine years when they host the Washington Capitals on Saturday night in a matchup involving Southeast Division rivals.

With Vincent Lecavalier, the league's leading scorer with 49 points, and Martin St. Louis, who ranks in the top 10 with 39, there's little question that Tampa Bay (14-15-3) has enough offense to contend. The goaltending duo of Holmqvist and Marc Denis, however, has much to prove.

Holmqvist has been steady most of the season, but he was pulled in the second period of a 6-1 loss at Toronto on Monday after allowing four goals on 22 shots.

After Denis led the Lightning to a 3-2 shootout victory the next night in Montreal, Holmqvist started Thursday against Calgary and gave up four goals on six shots in the first period. Denis replaced him at the start of the second and stopped 21 of 25 shots in a 9-6 loss.

The nine goals were the most Tampa Bay has allowed since the New York Rangers put up 10 on Nov. 10, 1998.

"It was a weird night, and unfortunately we gave up nine," Lightning defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "Everything was just going in. I felt bad for Homer, that we let him down."

While Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella could start Denis on Saturday, Holmqvist is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average in his last three starts against Washington.

The Lightning, who are 4-7-2 since winning a season-best five in a row, still own one of the league's best home records at 11-4-2. They have won four straight and nine of their last 11 against the Capitals at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Lecavalier and St. Louis also have been very productive against Washington. Lecavalier has 18 goals and 17 assists in his last 23 games versus the Capitals while St. Louis has 10 goals and nine assists in 11 contests.

Tampa Bay will be without right wing Michel Ouellet for this game. Ouellet - tied for fifth on the team with 18 points - left Thursday in the second period with a left shoulder injury.

Washington was unable to win a season-high fourth straight game Friday, losing 5-3 at home to Buffalo.

Alexander Ovechkin, rookie Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich had goals for the Capitals (12-18-2), who were seeking to complete a 4-0 homestand for the first time in more than seven years.

Olaf Kolzig allowed four goals on 29 shots.

"You can't gift wrap two goals," Kolzig said. "The first goal - I never go out and play the puck with one hand. It was just a rookie mistake...Third one was a bad break."

The loss dropped Washington to 6-4-1 under interim coach Bruce Boudreau.

Ovechkin's goal was his 23rd of the season - one behind Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk for the league lead. Ovechkin has six goals and five assists during a seven-game point streak.

The Lightning have won the last two meetings against the Capitals by a combined 10-4 score after a 5-3 loss in the season series opener on Oct. 24.

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