Washington, DC – Joel Ward netted the game-winner late in the second period, as the Washington Capitals extended their winning streak to a season-high four games with a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday at Verizon Center.
Ward also registered an assist, while Alex Ovechkin scored twice and John Carlson scored once to help the Capitals take a two-point lead over the idle Winnipeg Jets for the top spot in the Southeast Division.
Michal Neuvirth stopped 28 shots in the victory.
Vincent Lecavalier tallied a goal and an assist, while Alex Killorn also lit the lamp for the Lightning, who have lost three of their last four and find themselves eight points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just 10 games remaining.
"The problem is we're just running out of time," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper admitted. "I guess ultimately, you see what these guys have character wise because they have every right to throw in the towel."
Ben Bishop allowed three goals on 37 shots in the setback.
Washington blueliner Steve Oleksy was whistled for interference just under two minutes in and the Lightning quickly cashed in on the man advantage, as Martin St. Louis slid a pass from the right circle toward the front of the net for Lecavalier, who tipped the puck past Neuvirth to make it 1-0 at the 1:52 mark.
Ovechkin answered with a tip-in tally of his own at the 3:14 mark of the second to even the score, but Killorn lit the lamp just over three minutes later to restore Tampa Bay's one-goal edge.
The Capitals responded with a pair of goals just under 3 1/2 minutes apart later in the second to seize control, as Carlson blasted a heavy slapper from the high slot that sailed high over Bishop at the 12:54 mark to bring the home team even once again.
Ward followed with his eighth of the season at the 16:21 mark to put the Capitals in front, as he danced past a defender before lifting a shot over Bishop from the low left side to make it 3-2.
Neuvirth made the lead stand by turning away all 11 shots he faced in the third, while Ovechkin added an empty-netter in the closing seconds to account for the final margin.
"I thought we played great in the second period and we stuck to our plan in the third," Neuvirth said. "Obviously, it's a huge two points for us."
Ovechkin now has 15 goals and 21 points in his last 12 games ... Tampa Bay fell to 6-13-0 on the road, while Washington improved to 10-8-0 at home this season ... Washington has taken two of three from the Lightning this season. The season series wraps up Saturday in Washington.