TAMPA — Alex Ovechkin stood in the offensive zone as the play swirled around him. A Lightning player had knocked the stick from his hands, and the Capitals superstar looked at the referee with upraised hands.
It was a small moment, really, but it captured perfectly Tampa Bay's 3-0 victory Wednesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum that was a defensive clinic.
"Is there anything better than A-plus-plus?" goaltender Dwayne Roloson said of how his teammates played in front of him.
"Our defensive effort came from everybody," coach Guy Boucher said. "And that's the key."
The result was a second victory, and second shutout, over the Capitals in nine days as the first-place Lightning (26-13-5) built a two-point lead over Washington in the Southeast Division and remained second in the Eastern Conference.
Dominic Moore, Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne scored, and Bergenheim had a two-point night. Roloson made 23 saves for his 26th career shutout and second, both against the Capitals, in four starts since being acquired from the Islanders.
But how Tampa Bay took Washington out of its game was the most important aspect of the win.
"Right from the puck drop we were really good," center Nate Thompson said. "We always had a guy back. Guys had sticks on the ice. Guys weren't trying to lunge at guys. We were fundamentally sound and smart."
"They played really well in the neutral zone," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We were dumping it into the zone, and they were getting it and dumping it back."
And the Lightning was all over Ovechkin, who for the most part faced defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Mike Lundin and the line of Thompson, Adam Hall and Dana Tyrell. He had just two shots on goal.
"Our team is maturing," said Ohlund, who had four hits, including a crushing, message-sending cross-check to the face of Capitals defenseman Mike Green, two blocked shots and a takeaway.
"Hopefully, we realize the way we play against Washington is the way we have to play every game, sound defensively. We know the offense is going to score goals."
The backbreaker was Gagne's breakaway tally with 1:42 left in the second period, his fourth goal of the season and first in 12 games.
Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov was outstanding with 35 saves. The Lightning had a 38-23 shot advantage and created constant pressure in front of the net.
Boucher said the offense came from team defense. "We were a lot more aggressive on the forecheck," he said. "We were a lot more aggressive on the puck."
As Roloson said, A-plus-plus.
First Period—1, TB, Moore 8 (Thompson, Roloson), 3:58. 2, TB, Bergenheim 8 (Hedman, Downie), 16:04. Penalties—Green, Was (hooking), 1:09; Hedman, TB (interference), 8:27; Ohlund, TB (cross-checking), 12:52; Ovechkin, Was (slashing), 13:14.
Second Period—3, TB, Gagne 4 (Bergenheim, Lecavalier), 18:18. Penalties—Beagle, Was (roughing), 5:20; Malone, TB (roughing), 5:20; Hannan, Was (roughing, roughing), 9:47; Downie, TB (roughing), 9:47; Laich, Was (roughing), 11:26.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Carlson, Was (kneeing), 12:35; Wash. bench, served by Beagle (too many men), 18:24.
Shots on Goal—Wash. 9-9-5—23. TB 14-18-6—38. Power-play opportunities—Wash. 0 of 2; TB 0 of 6. Goalies—Wash., Varlamov 8-5-2 (38 shots-35 saves). TB, Roloson 9-14-1 (23-23). A—18,135 (19,758). T—2:35. Referees—Tom Kowal, Steve Kozari. Linesmen—Pierre Champoux, Darren Gibbs.