WASHINGTON (AP) — Defenseman Matt Walker scored one goal and created another a few minutes later when his shot deflected in off Vincent Lecavalier, helping the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning edge the NHL-leading Washington Capitals 3-2 on Friday night.
Brandon Bochenski also scored, Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves, and the Lightning won for only the second time in nine games. They entered the day tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich scored power-play goals for Washington, and two-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin assisted on both. But the Capitals lost for the second time in their past three home games following a club-record 13-game winning streak in Washington.
Tampa Bay won even though Steven Stamkos' franchise-record 18-game point streak ended.
The Capitals clinched a third consecutive Southeast Division title — the first team in the league to secure a playoff berth — when second-place Atlanta lost to Columbus on Thursday night, but there wasn't a whole lot of excitement about that feat.
"I mean, that's not our goal. We're happy that we've done it ... (but) our team had bigger goals in mind," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said before the game. "Some teams that haven't made the playoffs, their goal is to make the playoffs. We've been there a couple years in a row now. I think we have to go further."
Fleischmann made it 1-0 for the hosts by scoring his career-high 20th goal on a power play about 17 minutes into the game, dropping to his knees to redirect a cross-ice pass from Ovechkin. Fleischmann, who scored 19 goals in 2008-09, is the sixth Capitals player with at least 20 this season, more than any other team.
Washington's lead didn't last long, however. Bochenski tied the game with less than 50 seconds left in the opening period, beating goalie Semyon Varlamov with a slap shot from just across the blue line for his second goal of the season.
Walker also recorded his second goal, putting Tampa Bay ahead 2-1 at the 11:30 mark of the second period. Nate Thompson won a faceoff against Brooks 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 a little more than 3½ minutes later, 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 flipped past Varlamov. Officials reviewed it and allowed the goal, saying Lecavalier did not use his hand to purposely direct the puck in. Lecavalier was credited with his 19th goal.
Washington cut the deficit on Laich's 21st goal, a putback of a rebound 11:09 into the third period, but couldn't tie it.
NOTES: Stamkos' seven-game goal streak also ended, one short of tying the team record. He had nine goals in that stretch. "What I like is these are pressure games, and he's coming up big. That's tough — to play under pressure and score," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. ... Fleischmann scored for the second consecutive game after sitting out one as a healthy scratch, part of Boudreau's pattern of rotating his surplus of forwards to keep players fresh for the playoffs. When Fleischmann netted the winner in OT against Carolina on Wednesday, he said with a smile, "It's a little message: Don't sit me out again." ... Capitals RW Alexander Semin got hit in the face in the game's third minute and was bleeding. He went to the bench, was treated by a trainer, and returned. ... Capitals Gs Varlamov and Jose Theodore have alternated starts the last six games.