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Capitals tie franchise record for longest winning streak, beat Lightning 3-2 @NHLdotcom

WASHINGTON - Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals made it a perfect 10.

Ovechkin scored the go-ahead goal with 6:26 remaining, and the Capitals tied a franchise record with their 10th straight win Sunday, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2.

The reigning two-time league MVP slid on one knee and into the boards to celebrate his 35th goal of the season, a shot from the slot that beat Mike Smith to the stick side. The score rescued the Capitals after Washington blew a two-goal lead with a rare third-period meltdown.

Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich also scored for the Capitals, whose double-digit winning streak matches the team mark set Jan. 27-Feb. 18, 1984. Washington has outscored opponents 47-21 during this run. The league's top-scoring team has turned the Southeast Division race into a laugher and is within one point of San Jose for best record in the NHL.

Jose Theodore, returning after missing two games with a lower body injury, made 25 saves for Washington.

The Capitals were leading 2-0 when Martin St. Louis made a nice deflection to pull the Lightning within a goal with 15 minutes to play. Just 7 seconds later, Backstrom was whistled for tripping, Washington's first penalty of the game.

Tomas Fleischmann compounded matters during the penalty kill committing a hooking penalty out of frustration seconds after losing the puck. The Capitals killed off 23 seconds of 5-on-3, but Steven Stamkos' one-timer with Fleischmann in the box tied it with 12:18 remaining.

The Lightning were the last team to beat the Capitals, a 7-4 victory on Jan. 12 during which Ovechkin challenged Lightning forward Steve Downie to a fight before Washington's Matt Bradley intervened on behalf of his teammate. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said before the game he definitely was going to talk to his players about whatever bad blood there might be between the teams.

For all the anticipation, the first period was a sleepy, Sunday afternoon 20 minutes of hockey. The highlight was Ovechkin's amusing pratfall behind the Tampa Bay net, the result of a problem with his left skate. It was fixed after he went to the bench at the end of the shift.

Backstrom got the game's first goal in the second period by stuffing a rebound between Smith's legs during a power play. It was Backstrom's 23rd of the season - a career high - and gave the Capitals nine straight games with a power-play goal.

Laich scored the second goal, poking the puck into the net after Smith had lost his footing and was sprawled on the ice.

The Capitals played without Mike Green, whose 52 points leads all NHL defencemen. Green was serving the first game of a three-game suspension for elbowing Florida Panthers forward Michael Frolik in the head Friday night.

Smith, playing his first game since suffering a neck strain against the Capitals on Jan. 12, made 28 saves for Tampa Bay.

NOTES: Washington is 21-3-3 at home and has won nine in a row at the Verizon Center. ... The Capitals went 13-2-0 in January, breaking the franchise record for victories in a month. They won 12 in December 1984. ... The Capitals assigned G Michal Neuvirth to Hershey of the AHL and recalled goaltender Braden Holtby from Hershey. The move was made so that Neuvirth will be eligible to play for Hershey during the upcoming Olympic break.

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