Washington Capitals: Ovechkin scores 2 more; Caps win 4-2 over Lightning
WASHINGTON (AP) - Harking back to his MVP days, Alex Ovechkin scored twice on Sunday to make it five goals in two games and the Washington Capitals got a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ovechkin scored his 24th and 25th goal - giving him 16 in 14 games - to pull even with the Lightning's Steven Stamkos for the top spot in the NHL.
John Carlson and Joel Ward also scored for the Capitals, who moved two points ahead of the second-place Winnipeg Jets in Southeast Division with a game in hand.
Michal Neuvirth, making his first start since March 16, had 28 saves, including a pair of point-blank one-on-one stops against Vincent Lecavalier.
Washington has won four straight and eight of 10.
Lecavalier and Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning, whose playoff hopes are bleak following back-to-back weekend losses.
Tampa Bay trails Washington by eight points with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
Ovechkin's production had been declining sharply since his MVP seasons of 2007-08 and 2008-09, and he spent the first part of this lockout-truncated season adjusting to a different position and playing style under new coach Adam Oates.
But Ovechkin has regained his stride in recent weeks, leading the Capitals back into playoff position while producing a pair of hat trick games, including his trio of goals in Saturday's win over the Florida Panthers.
There wasn't anything flashy about his goals on Sunday. The first one was a redirect, and the second was an empty-netter with 4.4 seconds to play.
One concern for the Capitals: Another forward went down. Ward limped off after blocking a shot in the third period and did not return. Washington was already playing without Brooks Laich and Martin Erat - both injured in the past few days.
Lecavalier scored on the Lightning's first shot, redirecting the puck from Martin St. Louis past Neuvirth on a power play less than 2 minutes into the game. Lecavalier could have reasonably had a hat trick in the first period, with two later chances to close in solo on Neuvirth, but the goalie stopped him both times.
So, trailing by only one instead of three at the end of the first period, the Capitals went to work and scored three times in the second. Ovechkin redirected Jack Hillen's shot to tie the game, Carlson beat Ben Bishop (34 saves) high to the glove side with a slap shot, and Ward kept the puck on a three-on-two break and put it past Bishop on the stick side.
Between the Ovechkin and Carlson goals, Killorn put the Lightning back in front temporarily by taking the puck at the blue line, maneuvering around Hillen and doing what Lecavalier couldn't: Beat Neuvirth one-on-one.
Notes: Laich, hurt again after missing the first 28 games of the season with a groin injury, will see a specialist on Tuesday. "They can't quite get a handle on what it is," Oates said. "He just doesn't feel good. It's a little sore everywhere, but not necessarily where he was in the groin, and that's why he's seeing the specialist." ... Erat, acquired from the Nashville Predators at last week's trade deadline, sat out with a lower body injury after taking a nasty hit from Erik Gudbranson in Saturday's win over the Florida Panthers. Oates said he doesn't think "it's going to be too long" before Erat returns. ... The Capitals are 12-3-0 against Southeast opponents. ... Washington's Nicklas Backstrom picked up his 300th career assist. ... The Capitals are 13-1-1 in their past 15 home games against the Lightning.