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Ovechkin leads Caps to 10th straight win

by Brian Compton
Make it 10 in a row for the Washington Capitals.

Leave it to Alex Ovechkin to get them there.

The Caps' captain broke a 2-2 tie with his 35th goal of the season at 13:34 of the third period as Washington won its 10th straight game with a 3-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon.

The two-time Hart Trophy winner slid on one knee and into the boards to celebrate after his wrist shot from the slot found its way past Lightning goalie Mike Smith. Tampa Bay had rallied from a 2-0 deficit before Ovechkin saved the day.

''It's kind of fun and it's kind of good,'' Ovechkin said. ''But we don't want to stop.''

Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich scored in the second period 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 and has scored a power-play goal in nine consecutive games. The victory also allowed the Caps to pull within one point of San Jose for the best record in the NHL.

''Every team wants to come in a make a statement and say 'We're the team that knocked these guys off,''' Laich said, ''so we're getting teams' best efforts every single night. We're in special territory right now, and a chance to make history in our next game, so we've got to be prepared.''

Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos scored 2:42 apart early in the third period to erase Washington's lead. The Lightning were the last team to defeat the Capitals, a 7-4 decision on Jan. 12.

Smith, playing his first game since suffering a neck strain against the Capitals on Jan. 12, made 28 saves for Tampa Bay. Jose Theodore, who missed the previous two games due to a lower-body injury, made 25 saves for Washington.

''It's devastating, but we've got to grab some positive out of this third period, some momentum going into the next game,'' St. Louis said. ''I thought we showed a lot of character coming back like that.''

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

''The number 10 is pretty tough to get to,'' Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''I told the guys it's something that you might go your whole career again without getting again, and so enjoy it.''

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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