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Lightning outlast Capitals 3-2

by John Kreiser

Steve Stamkos' goal and points streaks ended. The Tampa Bay Lightning's playoff hopes are still alive.

The Washington Capitals ended Stamkos' goal-scoring streak at seven games and his points streak at 18. But the Lightning ended the Caps' streak of getting at least a point at home at 15 by beating Washington 3-2 at the Verizon Center on Friday night.

Defenseman Matt Walker scored the go-ahead goal 11:30 into the second period and created the eventual game-winner at 16:12 when his rising shot deflected into the off Vincent Lecavalier's elbow.

Brandon Bochenski also scored, Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves, and the Lightning won for only the second time in nine games. With 68 points, they are 10th in the Eastern Conference, four points behind eighth-place Boston.

"It was probably the best road game we played all year," Niittymaki said. "Not just because we beat Washington. The overall game."

Alex Ovechkin assisted on Tomas Fleischmann's first-period goal and a goal by Brooks Laich midway though the third, but the Caps lost for the second time at home this week after a 13-game winning streak -- a string that was snapped in a 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas on Monday.

"We stayed out too long, we got outworked, and we didn't play the way we're capable of playing, and that's the reason we lost. It had nothing to do with goaltending," an unhappy coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We should be able to score -- with that lineup -- three goals a game. And we got none 5-on-5, which has been a strength of ours all year. When you get none 5-on-5, the telltale sign isn't luck, isn't anything. You got outworked. There's no excuse."

The Capitals came into the game having clinched a third consecutive Southeast Division title -- the first team in the league to secure a playoff berth -- after second-place Atlanta lost to Columbus on Thursday night.

The Lightning won despite getting nothing offensively from Stamkos or Martin St. Louis. Coach Rick Tocchet was delighted to get some much-needed secondary scoring.

"The third and fourth lines really played well," Tocchet said. "It was a balanced night.

Fleischmann made it 1-0 at 16:54 of the opening period by scoring his career-high 20th goal. Ovechkin made a brilliant diagonal feed from the top of the left circle to Fleischmann, who ripped it past Niittymaki. Fleischmann, who scored 19 goals in 2008-09, is the sixth Capitals player with at least 20 this season, more than any other team.

But Washington's lead didn't last long. Bochenski tied the game with less than 50 seconds left in the opening period, beating Semyon Varlamov with a slap shot from just across the blue line for his second goal of the season.

Walker put the Bolts ahead with his second of the season. Nate Thompson won a faceoff against Laich and Stephane Veilleux tipped the puck back to Walker, whose slap shot from behind the left circle sailed into the upper right corner of the net.

It became 3-1 when Walker sent a puck toward the net. Lecavalier was camped out in front and spun away, apparently trying to avoid getting hit. The puck went off Lecavalier and past Varlamov. Officials reviewed the play and allowed the goal, saying Lecavalier did not use his hand to purposely direct the puck into the net.

"That thing was coming right at my face," said Lecavalier, who was credited with his 19th goal of the season. "Obviously, it's a lucky goal."

Washington cut the deficit on Laich's 21st goal, a putback of a rebound 11:09 into the third period, but couldn't get another puck past Niittymaki, who beat the Caps for the seventh time in 10 career decisions.

"I thought the guys played really hard tonight," Tocchet said. "We deserved the win."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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