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Holtby's 35 saves help Capitals defeat Lightning

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Braden Holtby made 35 saves for his NHL-leading 18th victory, and the Washington Capitals held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Holtby made 14 saves in the third period, when the Lightning outshot the Capitals 15-1. He is 10-0-1 in his past 11 decisions since a 2-1 regulation loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 10.

"Obviously, that's not the way we'd like to play every night, but it's a win," Holtby told Monumental Network. "We know Tampa is very good at home, and you've got to give them some credit, they played a really good game."

Defenseman John Carlson said Holtby is a major reason the Capitals (20-6-2) are on top of the Metropolitan Division.

"I can't say enough about him," Carlson said. "I feel like a broken record talking about him all the time. He performs every single night. He's there for us. It's great that he's on our team."

Jay Beagle and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington, which is 8-1-1 in its past 10 games.

"We hung on and we'll take it," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "We had two good periods, and in the third period, they came at us really hard."

Nikita Kucherov scored a third-period power-play goal, and Ben Bishop made 18 saves for the Lightning (14-13-3), who have lost four in a row to the Capitals, including two games this season. Bishop is 1-5-1 in his career against Washington.

"I thought the guys deserved a better fate tonight," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told the Lightning website. "But ultimately, we need to get more than one (goal). You can't depend on your goaltender every night to give up one or less."

The Capitals opened the scoring 2:09 into the game when Beagle scored his fourth goal of the season and first since Nov. 13. Stanislav Galiev threw the puck toward the net; it hit Bishop's blocker and came to Beagle, who was just to the side of the left post. Beagle banked the puck off Bishop's back and into the net on Washington's first shot of the game.

Holtby made 11 saves in the first period, including two early stops on Valtteri Filppula from the slot.

"He was really good early for us," Trotz said. "They got some really good looks in the first five minutes, and Braden stood tall."

Kuznetsov made it 2-0 at 11:16 of the second period with a highlight-reel goal. After the Lightning failed to clear their zone, Kuznetsov picked up the puck inside the Tampa Bay blue line and raced down the right side. It looked as if he would go behind the net; instead, he pivoted and tucked the puck between Bishop and the right post for his ninth goal.

Holtby preserved the two-goal lead when he stopped Vladislav Namestnikov from in close with 1:16 remaining in the period after Namestnikov got behind the Washington defense.

Kucherov scored his 11th goal at 8:05 of the third period, one-timing Anton Stralman's pass behind Holtby with Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen serving a tripping penalty. It was Kucherov's fifth goal in four games.

The Lightning controlled play for the final 11 minutes but couldn't solve Holtby again.

"I thought we had the better of them tonight," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get the result."

Holtby said he's not worried about the fact that he has only one shutout.

"What I've been trying to work on is consistency from Day One," he said. "I feel that two-goal range is where you give your team a chance to win. It makes it easier on your mental game if you're not trying to get a shutout every night. It breeds more consistency. There's always room for improvement."

With Tyler Johnson already out with an undisclosed injury and Jonathan Drouin (lower body) a late scratch, the Lightning dressed 11 forwards, including minor league call-up Mike Blunden, and seven defensemen. They were reduced to 10 forwards after the first period because Ondrej Palat, who played Thursday after missing 12 games with an ankle injury, did not return due to an undisclosed injury.

"It's always tough when you go into a game, your team is nursing itself back to health, and you lose a guy in warmups and another guy five minutes into the game," Cooper said. "I'm speechless at how this [run of injuries] is going. We can't find a way to get guys back."

Palat left a few minutes into the game, returned and took a couple of shifts late in the period, but he wasn't on the bench for the second period. He's listed as day-to-day.

"He tried to come back," Cooper said. "I think he played one-and-a-half shifts at the end [of the first period], but he couldn't do it."

Lightning forward Brian Boyle played in his 500th NHL game.

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