TAMPA – The Washington Capitals made the most of their limited opportunities Thursday night.
The Capitals managed a total of 20 shots, but the last one was a deflection by Eric Fehr with 51.5 seconds left in regulation that gave Washington a 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Fehr got enough of a tip on Mike Green's shot from the point to beat Anders Lindback after Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis failed to clear the puck from his own zone, giving the Capitals the victory Tampa Bay had battled back from a two-goal deficit.
"We were lucky to come back and get the win,” Fehr said, "but we have to try and get a few more and spread the game in the first."
Due to poor ice conditions in one of the goal creases, the teams changed sides at the first whistle after the 10-minute mark of each period.
"They ended up doing a great job on it,” Washington coach Adam Oates said. “It was ugly, and you don't want to have to postpone a game because of it. I'm glad they fixed it."
Washington led 3-1 after one period but managed 11 shots on net in the final 40 minutes, giving the Lightning a chance to get back into the game.
B.J. Crombeen began the Lightning comeback when he wristed a shot over rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer's shoulder at 6:45 of the second period to make it 3-2. It was Crombeen's first goal since March 5, 2013, a total of 56 games. Tom Pyatt's assist was his first point of the season.
Ondrej Palat tied the game with 5:30 remaining in regulation when he deflected a shot from Matthew Carle past Grubauer.
Tampa Bay (26-14-4) grabbed the lead 4:08 into the game when Tyler Johnson took a pass from Palat, cruised in and beat Grubauer with a shot over his glove. Palat's assist extended his scoring streak to eight games, a rookie record for Tampa Bay.
“We had a lot of chances to score and we had to battle back, but for the most part we played pretty well,” Johnson said.
Pretty well, except for the final minute of the game.
“We did not manage the last minute of the game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “You can’t turn over pucks like that. You just keep giving them more chances to score.”
Washington (21-16-6) bounced back from the early deficit with three consecutive goals.
Alexander Ovechkin and Fehr caught Carle pinching into the attacking zone and came at Lindback 2-on-1, and Fehr zipped Ovechkin’s cross-ice pass into the net to tie at 7:04. Power-play goals by Mikhail Grabovski at 10:37 and Marcus Johansson with 12 seconds to go gave the Capitals the 3-1 lead after one period.
"All the lines, I thought, contributed tonight in terms of getting their opportunities,” Oates said. “We kept up. They're a very fast team. You have to be confident in the offensive zone, because otherwise they're going to come."
Lindback made 16 saves in his second straight start; Ben Bishop was placed on injured reserve with a sprained right wrist earlier in the day. Grubauer finished with 33 saves.
The victory ended a four-game winless streak for Washington, who face the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at home.
“It wasn’t the prettiest way to win,” Fehr said. “But scoring in the last minute – the team really rallied and hopefully we can carry the momentum forward.”
Cooper kept returning to the late goal that cost his team the win.
“It started in their end and ended up in our end,” Cooper said. “That’s tough. We needed a blocked shot or a save in that situation. It was a wrist shot from the point. So when you make one mistake you can’t make two and that’s what we did and the puck ended up in our net. We just broke down at the end.”
The Lightning lost defenseman Radko Gudas to a lower-body injury in the first period.