The Tampa Bay Lightning climbed above .500 for the first time in more than a month and nudged ahead of Washington into eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings by beating the Capitals 5-4 on Thursday night. Considering there’s still three months left in the season, Tortorella responded with a resounding so what.
“There is so much hockey to play,” Tortorella said. “Things change so quickly the way the standing are this year.
“I don’t think you can get too down if you’re in 12th or 13th place. I don’t think you can get too high if you’re in the eighth, seventh or sixth spot.”
Vincent Lecavalier had two goals and an assist and Martin St. Louis snapped a third-period tie with his 28th goal of the season.
Vinny Prospal had a goal and two assists and Ryan Craig also scored for the Lightning, who got 18 saves from goaltender Johan Holmqvist to match a season high with their third straight win.
The Lightning have a winning record for the first time since they beat Atlanta 8-0 to improve to 14-13-2.
“It’s just nice to be above water . . . It’s a good feeling. We’ve been on the other side for a while,” St. Louis said. “Hopefully we just keep playing well and stay on that side for a while.”
Alexander Semin scored two goals and Alexander Ovechkin had two assists for Washington, which had won three in a row following a tough stretch in which the Capitals lost seven of eight games.
Lecavalier scored his 25th goal for a 2-1 lead in the first period, then added his 26th after making a nifty move to get the puck around Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig for a 4-3 advantage with 7:36 remaining in the second.
Lecavalier narrowly missed getting a third goal, misfiring at an empty net from the blue-line with about 30 seconds to go.
The Lightning scored twice in the first nine minutes, sandwiching goals by Lecavalier and Ryan Craig around Semin’s 23rd of the season on a Washington power-play. Semin added his 24th on a wrist shot from the slot less than six minutes into the second period, giving him seven goals in his last four games.
Ben Clymer took a pass from Donald Brashear between two defenders at the blue-line and scored on a breakaway to put the Capitals ahead 3-2. Tampa Bay answered with goals by Prospal and Lecavalier in a 69-second span to regain the lead 4-3, but the Lightning couldn’t sustain the momentum.
Ovechkin, who has three goals and eight assists during a five-game point streak, flicked a perfect pass across the ice from the left wing to set up Chris Clark’s goal that made it 4-4 with 9.4 seconds remaining in the second period.
St. Louis took a back-hand pass from Proposal, who behind the net, and delivered his game-winning goal less than four minutes into the final period.
“The fans want to see scoring. You had a lot of skill out there,” Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. “Every time there was a mistake or an opportunity, it was in the right people’s hands.
“There were some real nice goals out there.”
Meanwhile, Kolzig blamed the loss on his performance.
“The team played terrific. The goalie let them down,” Kolzig said. “I just didn’t make the saves I needed to make, and that basically was the difference.”
Notes: Lightning captain Tim Taylor returned after missing one game with a sore right hip that may require surgery . . . Lecavalier has a five-game point streak with five goals and four assists during the stretch . . . The Lightning lead the season series between the teams 3-1. The visiting team had won each of the first three meetings.