TAMPA, Fla. – Eric Fehr hopes a final-minute victory will jumpstart a positive stretch for the Washington Capitals.
Fehr had two goals, including a tiebreaking redirection with 51.5 seconds left in the third period, as the Capitals beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Thursday night.
“These are the kind of games that can be momentum builders for you,” Fehr said. “It wasn’t the prettiest way to win it, but scoring in the last couple of minutes, you could see the excitement on the bench. Hopefully we can carry that into tomorrow.”
Fehr was positioned in close when he tipped Mike Green’s shot past Anders Lindback, helping the Capitals improve to 2-3-3 over their last eight games. Washington plays again Friday night at home against Toronto.
Tampa Bay had pulled even at 3 on Ondrej Palat’s nifty tip-in of Matt Carle’s shot at 14:30 of the third. Martin St. Louis also assisted on the goal to move past Rick Tocchet into sole possession of 89th place on the NHL’s career list with 953 points.
The teams switched ends midway through each period due to what was called “poor ice” in the visitors’ crease.
“I think the one crease, I don’t know if it was a heating issue or something, but the ice was getting really soft,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “There was a thought that it might be a disadvantage in that crease. It didn’t have any effect on the game.”
“You kind of forget which end you were going to for a bit there,” Fehr said.
Washington also got goals from Mikhail Grabovski and Marcus Johansson. Tyler Johnson and B.J. Crombeen had the other goals for the Lightning.
The Capitals won the first meeting this season 6-5 in a shootout on Dec. 10, a game in which Alex Ovechkin had four goals and Nicklas Backstrom contributed a goal and four assists. Ovechkin and Backstrom both had an assist Thursday.
Washington took a 3-1 first-period lead, keyed by power-play goals from Grabovski and Johansson.
After Grabovski scored on a redirection at 10:37, Johansson made it 3-1 from in close with 12 seconds left in the first.
Crombeen stopped a personal 56-game goal drought from the right circle to get Tampa Bay within 3-2 at 6:45 of the second. A potential tying goal by Palat later in the period was disallowed when it was ruled he kicked the puck into the net.
Johnson put the Lightning up 1-0 when he lifted a shot over Philipp Grubauer during a breakaway 4:08 into the game. Palat assisted on the goal to set a Tampa Bay rookie record by extending his point streak to eight games.
Grubauer finished with 33 saves.
Fehr tied it at 1 by beating Anders Lindback from the left circle at 7:04 of the first. Lindback stopped 16 shots, including 10 of 11 over the final two periods.
“You hold them to 11 shots the last two periods, and it’s another one of those situations we had multiple chances to take the lead and we didn’t,” Cooper said. “We just broke down at the end.”
NOTES: Cooper believes Lightning star Steven Stamkos can return from a broken right shin in time for next month’s Olympics. Stamkos is on Canada’s Olympic team and has been out since he was injured Nov. 11 at Boston. … Lightning G Ben Bishop was placed on the injured list because of a sprained right wrist. … Green assisted on Grabovski’s goal for his 200th NHL assist. His assist on Fehr’s game-winner was his 300th NHL point… Capitals RW Martin Erat was scratched. … Tampa Bay D Radko Gudas left after the first period with a lower body injury.