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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals

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GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (31-17-7-5) at Washington Capitals (19-32-8-2).

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have the biggest division lead of any NHL team and have recorded a point in all but one of their last 14 games.

That doesn't mean John Tortorella is happy.

The Lightning try to give their coach reason to smile as they visit the last-place Washington Capitals.

Tortorella, known for his often biting comments after games despite Tampa's successful season, is concerned with his team's goaltending.

Starter Nikolai Khabibulin has a 3.13 goals-against average in his last 11 starts, the last of which was Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to St. Louis.

Backup John Grahame lost in overtime by the same score the following night at Buffalo. Besides allowing Daniel Briere's goal in overtime, Grahame was beaten through the legs by Brian Campbell and gave up another goal when the puck dribbled through his glove.

Grahame had won six straight starts before that loss, but that meant nothing to Tortorella.

"I'm very concerned about both of our guys," Tortorella said. "Plain and simple, you need saves. We need some help there. Enough said? Good."

Despite Tortorella's displeasure, the Lightning are 16 points ahead of second-place Florida in the Southeast Division and have gone 10-1-1-2 over the last month. The only regulation loss during that span came at Washington on Feb. 3.

That victory is part of an 11-game stretch during which the Capitals have lost just three times (5-3-3) despite their ongoing salary dump.

Jaromir Jagr, Steve Konowalchuk and Peter Bondra are already gone, and among those rumored to be headed out of Washington are goalie Olaf Kolzig and defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

Kolzig's market value may be growing because he has led the Caps on a 2-0-2 unbeaten streak, allowing four goals while posting a .974 save percentage.

Kolzig gave up two goals early in the second period Saturday against Florida, but Washington rallied for a 2-2 tie. Robert Lang scored his team-leading 28th goal off a deflection and assisted on Gonchar's tying goal at 7:10 of the third period.

"If we had been in that situation earlier this season, I think we would have probably folded our tents and called it a night," Kolzig said. "We got that fluky goal at the end of the second period that kind of jump-started us a little bit and we dominated the rest of the way."

STANDINGS: Lightning - 74 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Capitals - 48 points, 5th place, 26 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Martin St. Louis, 29 goals, 38 assists and 67 points; Chris Dingman, 124 PIM. Capitals - Lang, 28 goals, 43 assists and 71 points; Jason Doig, 103 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 21): Lightning - Power play: 16.3 percent (42 for 257), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (179 for 209), 2nd. Capitals - Power play: 19.4 percent (50 for 258), 6th. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (237 for 288), 22nd.

GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Khabibulin (16-15-6, 2 SO, 2.37 GAA); Grahame (15-7-1, 1, 1.86). Capitals - Kolzig (16-28-7, 2, 2.83); Sebastien Charpentier (0-1-0, 0, 4.05).

SEASON SERIES: Capitals, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 3; Capitals, 2-1. At Washington, Anson Carter had a goal and an assist and Maxime Ouellet made 38 saves as the Capitals ended Tampa's six-game winning streak.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 15-10-3-3 on the road; Capitals - 10-14-5-1 at home.


Associated Press
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