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Ovechkin's four goals help Capitals edge Lightning

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- For as long as Alex Ovechkin has been in the NHL, the Washington Capitals' fortunes have been directly tied to his own.

With the Capitals in desperate need of a lift against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ovechkin scored four goals (his 13th career hat trick) and surpassed Peter Bondra for the franchise record for power-play goals, helping Washington erase a 3-0 first-period deficit en route to a 6-5 shootout victory at Verizon Center on Tuesday night.

Washington has won five of six after a season-high four-game losing streak.

"We've been in this situation before," Ovechkin said, referring to the Capitals' propensity for slow starts. "I'm sure everybody knows we have lots of time left and we just have to take one at a time. The second goal by [Nicklas Backstrom] was huge, and we just felt we can come back and win the game."

Backstrom played a role in all five Washington goals in regulation, scoring once and assisting on all four of Ovechkin's. It was his fourth-career five-point game.

Before Ovechkin's personal scoring outburst, however, the Lightning had one of their own.

With Mike Green serving a double minor for high-sticking Valtteri Filppula, Martin St. Louis took advantage of Tampa Bay's power play in 12 seconds, receiving a pass from Sami Salo, curling into the middle of the ice and beating a heavily screened Braden Holtby with a wrist shot at 2:26.

Green's first period only got worse from there. Back in the penalty box for tripping Ondrej Palat, he could only watch as Nikita Kucherov blew a one-timer from the high slot past Holtby to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

Nate Thompson scored again 18 seconds later, completing a 2-on-1 with J.T. Brown, pushing the lead to 3-0 and forcing Capitals coach Adam Oates to pull Holtby in favor of Philipp Grubauer after allowing three goals on eight shots.

The Lightning, who entered the game having scored a total of four goals in their previous four games, scored three goals before the Capitals could muster a shot on net.

Green took his third penalty of the period and earned a 10-minute misconduct shortly after Thompson's goal, giving him a career-high 18 penalty minutes less than 12 minutes into the game.

Ovechkin stopped the proverbial bleeding at 14:15 with a one-timer directly off a faceoff victory by Backstrom.

"It was a big goal for us, no question," Oates said. "It got everybody going and it gave the team a little feeling that we could maybe do it."

In the second period, Backstrom cut the Capitals' deficit to 3-2 with a power-play goal at 6:24. Tyler Johnson answered and restored the Lightning's two-goal lead at 12:41 when he tapped in Palat's rebound.

Ovechkin completed his hat trick within the last four minutes of the period. Richard Panik was assessed a five-minute major for boarding defenseman Karl Alzner, giving Washington's vaunted power play five uninterrupted minutes with which to work.

Ovechkin converted a back-door feed from Marcus Johansson seven seconds into the power play at 16:38, then followed that with a one-time blast from the left circle at 18:48 to tie the game at 4-4, completing the hat trick and setting the franchise record with his 138th career power-play goal.

Palat scored at 8:36 of the third period to give the Lightning a 5-4 lead, but Ovechkin tied it with his fourth of the night and League-leading 26th of the season on another one-timer with 33 seconds remaining and Grubauer on the bench in favor of an extra attacker. He leaped into the air exuberantly as his teammates mobbed him in celebration.

"It's great, you just put the puck on a tee for him and he knows what to do with it," Alzner said. "It's pretty amazing, the shot that he has and finding those spots. Of all the games this year, this is the one we needed it the most and it was honestly very impressive."

After a scoreless overtime, the Capitals won their League-leading seventh game in a shootout in five rounds with Eric Fehr, Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer clinching the victory.

Tampa Bay continues to struggle without Steven Stamkos, out with a broken right tibia, having lost eight of 13 (5-6-2).

"Let's face it … you can't leave No. 8," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of Ovechkin. "He didn't even have to work for his goals. He didn't move on the first one, he didn't move on the last two at all. If you are going to let that guy take shots, this is sometimes going to happen."

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