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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ovechkin Set-Up Saves Day for Caps

ReutersOvechkin resting on the boards and examining the score during a third-period timeout in Washington on Sunday.
WASHINGTON -- Alexander Ovechkin is already finding ways in his rookie season to lift the Washington Capitals to unlikely victories. Pulling one out against the defending Stanley Cup champions was just a bonus. Ovechkin set up the late winning goal, and the Capitals skated off with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday that snapped a three-game skid.

"We wanted to stop our losing streak and the guys were up to the test," defenseman Brendan Witt said.

Washington endured a game of frustration when its offense failed to get into gear. But one flick of Ovechkin's wrist on an improbable long pass was enough to prevent a fourth overtime in four meetings between the teams this season.

Dainius Zubrus scored with 2:20 left in regulation, but Ovechkin started the decisive push by skating down the left boards and drawing two defenders to him. Ovechkin slipped a rink-wide pass through traffic to Chris Clark on the right wing, and Clark tapped the puck to Zubrus, who scored after splitting two defenders in the slot.

"The pass was perfect," Zubrus said. "It was right on the tape, and I didn't want to hold it up much."

The feed was a daring but beautiful assist, showing that the first-year scoring sensation is keenly aware of where his teammates are and what the defense is trying to do to negate his abilities.

"If two guys are going to go to [Ovechkin] right away as soon as he's into the zone, it means there's always going to be someone open. ... After 40 games, people are starting to realize that this is the guy they have to go to," Clark said.

Ovechkin said the winning goal helped balance out the difficulty Washington had offensively the rest of the game. The Capitals had only four first-period shots and were outshot 35-24.

"I know there was a [10-4] disparity in the shots," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "But in the first period, I think 10 of their shots came on the power play."

Jeff Halpern also scored for the Caps.

Vincent Lacavalier had the lone goal for the Lightning, who were 5-0-1 in their previous six games.

"We had a chance to win," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We doubled them in scoring chances, and we don't score. We lose a couple of battles in the neutral zone at the end there. They were bad coverages and it was in the net, game over."

The latest loss to the Capitals was Tampa Bay's final visit to Washington this season. The previous three games went to a shootout, with the Capitals winning two.

"We didn't play last year, but they're still the Stanley Cup champions," Witt said. "It's a good test every time we play them."

Tampa Bay's Evegny Artyukhin almost forced overtime. With 0.5 seconds left, his shot glanced off the right post and through the crease behind goalie Olie Kolzig.

"It was close," Artyukhin said. "But it didn't count."

"Guys are trying, but we've got to finish," Tortorella said.

Eleven seconds after Tampa Bay's fifth power play expired, Lacavalier gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead when he swept Vaclav Prospal's centering pass past Kolzig at 9:24 of the second for his 21st goal.

Halpern tied it with 4:40 left in the period, snapping the Lightning's shutout streak of 158 minutes, 42 seconds spread over three games. Halpern pursued his own rebound after John Grahame failed to glove the puck, poking it in after it squirted behind the goalie.

In other NHL games, it was Calgary 5, Chicago 3; and Edmonton 4, Phoenix 3 in a shootout.