WASHINGTON — If the Lightning did not feel snakebit before Thursday night's 6-3 loss to the Capitals at the Verizon Center, it should have when it was done.
Already without wings Simon Gagne and Steve Downie because of neck injuries, Tampa Bay is now without captain Vinny Lecavalier for at least three weeks with a nondisplaced fracture of his right knuckle.
"It's bad luck, but it's part of the game," Lecavalier said. "I know the guys will play hard, and they're going to battle."
"I feel so bad for him," coach Guy Boucher said. "He's working so hard. He's taking care of so many small details. He's been a real leader on the team. He's been outstanding for us."
It didn't help that the Lightning (8-5-2) lost for the fourth time in five games while generally outplaying a Southeast Division foe and the top team in the league.
Tampa Bay, with goals from Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos, had a 41-26 shot advantage, including 12-3 in the final 13 minutes of the first period.
It hit at least six posts, including three in the first period, two by Lecavalier and one by Marty St. Louis. Defenseman Pavel Kubina hit a post in the third with the Capitals ahead 4-3.
But Washington, which won its sixth straight, got terrific goaltending from Michal Neuvirth, who made 38 saves, and five points from Alexander Semin, who had three of his team's four third-period goals.
And it's not as if goalie Dan Ellis played all that poorly. "They're the type of team, they get one chance and they bury it," Boucher said.
Such as Semin's second goal, a one-timer from the right wing that, with 9:14 left, snuck short side past a seemingly well-positioned Ellis for a 4-2 lead.
Stamkos' league-best 14th goal, on a close-in wrist shot, made it 4-3 with 7:17 left, but Alex Ovechkin scored with 4:52 remaining when the Lightning lost track of him and he took Semin's pass with no one between him and Ellis.
"We just didn't bury opportunities," Stamkos said. "(Kubina) hits a post that would have tied the game, and they come down and score."
Lecavalier's injury occurred about six minutes into the first period, when, he said, he stretched to "slash at the puck" and the twisting motion of his hand cracked the knuckle, first hurt Oct. 16 by a slap shot from Florida's Bryan McCabe.
"It wasn't broken before, but it was probably close," Lecavalier said. "When I overextended it, I kind of felt a pop."
Lecavalier, with three goals and nine points in 14 games, played the second period but not the third, leaving Tampa Bay with 10 forwards. General manager Steve Yzerman said forwards Johan Harju and Marc Pouliot will be called up today from AHL Norfolk.
"It's tough," Stamkos said. "We get guys back, and more get injured. We can't seem to get the whole team together."
"That's why I'm proud of the guys," Boucher said. "We were playing with three lines, and we're still pushing. Our guys go to war. Our guys have character and that winning attitude."
What they don't have is their captain.
First Period—1, TB, Purcell 2 (Bergenheim, Thompson), 9:27. Penalties—Knuble, Was (roughing), 14:44; Carlson, Was (delay of game), 17:12.
Second Period—2, Wash., Poti 1 (Semin, Backstrom), 2:21. 3, Wash., Knuble 3 (Laich, Fleischmann), 7:51. Penalties—Laich, Was (interference), 10:28; Hall, TB, major (fighting), 14:36; Bradley, Was, major (fighting), 14:36.
Third Period—4, TB, Malone 2 (St. Louis, Stamkos), 2:43 (pp). 5, Wash., Semin 10 (Backstrom, Ovechkin), 4:33 (pp). 6, Wash., Semin 11 (Backstrom, Ovechkin), 10:46. 7, TB, Stamkos 14 (Moore, St. Louis), 12:43. 8, Wash., Ovechkin 9 (Semin, Schultz), 15:08. 9, Wash., Semin 12 (Backstrom, Carlson), 19:44 (en). Penalties—Erskine, Was (boarding), 2:03; Moore, TB (hooking), 4:17. Shots on Goal—TB 13-12-16—41. Wash. 8-8-10—26. Power-play opportunities—TB 1 of 4; Wash. 1 of 1. Goalies—TB, Ellis 4-3-2 (25 shots-20 saves). Wash., Neuvirth 10-3-0 (41-38). A—18,398 (18,398).