WASHINGTON - With Alex Ovechkin around, the Washington Capitals figured it couldn't be too long before their scoring problems would fade away.
For one night, at least, all it took was a little lineup juggling. Moved back up to Ovechkin's line Wednesday night, captain Chris Clark scored his first two goals, and Washington produced its biggest output of offence all season in a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We understand each other," said Ovechkin, who contributed two assists and an empty-net goal with four seconds left. "We played like we played the last two years: He scored and I scored."
Clark's first points of the season - one goal came off a pass from Ovechkin, the other came when a rebound bounced off his body - helped the Capitals end a four-game losing streak.
"I got a couple of those goose eggs off my board," Clark said, "but to come out with a win was huge."
Washington was averaging only two goals, but had more success against Tampa Bay goalie Marc Denis, making his first start this season. The Lightning fell to 0-3 on the road for the first time since 2000.
"It's too early to say that it's a struggle," Denis said. "Last year, we were one of the best road teams in the whole league."
The Capitals also entered the day as one of only two clubs in the NHL that had yet to score more than three goals in a game, a drought that extended 16 games to a 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay on March 18 last season.
So Washington coach Glen Hanlon shifted around his forward lines, in part because he was able to use wing Alexander Semin, who came off injured reserve after missing six of seven games with an ankle injury.
Hanlon also changed right wing Clark from a checking line to the top line, joining left wing Ovechkin and centre Viktor Kozlov. It didn't take long for that to work out.
Just 6:33 into the game, Ovechkin corralled a poor clear attempt by Shane O'Brien and made a backhand pass to Clark, who quickly flipped a shot under the crossbar.
Clark played with Ovechkin often the previous two seasons and scored a career-high 30 goals in 2006-07.
"He's our leader. He's a great guy in the locker room, an unbelievable player on the ice," Ovechkin said.
After Tampa Bay tied it on Jason Ward's first goal of the season about 16 minutes into the first period, Ovechkin set up David Steckel's first career goal a little more than 4???? minutes into the second period to make it 2-1.
Kozlov passed to Ovechkin, who threaded the puck past three Lightning players and over to Steckel on the right side. After the puck went in, Ovechkin skated over to meet the rookie behind the net with a pat on the helmet and a yell of, "Yeah, baby!"
"It's a relief," Steckel said. "I started thinking about it a little too much."
The Lightning evened things again three minutes later with a short-handed goal. A mere 13 seconds into a Washington power play, Semin turned the puck over, and Tampa Bay rushed the other way, with Ward and Brad Richards setting up Paul Ranger.
That 2-2 score didn't last, though, because Washington scored twice in 61 seconds. First, Brooks Laich put the Capitals back in front with 2:19 left in the second period. Then, Clark was in the right spot at the right time to make it 4-2 with what Hanlon called a "dirty goal" and Denis termed "the flukiest goal of the night."
"It was a lucky bounce," Clark acknowledged, saying the puck went off his chest. "I was trying to weasel my way to the front of the net to make something happen."
Tampa Bay had to try for a comeback over the final 14???? minutes without centre Vincent Lecavalier, who fought with Shaone Morrisonn and was whistled for two minutes for slashing, two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting, plus a 10-minute game misconduct.
"Huge help," Hanlon said.
Lightning coach John Tortorella's take?
"Vinny's fight sparked us," Tortorella said.
Notes: Ovechkin scored his team-high fifth goal. ... Martin St. Louis scored Tampa Bay's third goal against Olie Kolzig. ... The Capitals are 3-0 against Southeast Division foes.