TAMPA — As Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun made stunning save after stunning save Tuesday night, Lightning players said they kept one thing in mind.
"He's a good goalie," center Steven Stamkos said. "But no goalie can stop every puck."
And it was Stamkos, with his eighth shot of the game, who broke through 2:45 into overtime with his league-best 33rd goal for a 4-3 victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"There are only so many chances you can have before it goes in," Stamkos said. "It was nice to get rewarded in a big situation like that."
It was a season-best fifth straight win for Tampa Bay (22-23-4), which pulled to eight points of first-place Washington in the Southeast Division as well as the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Teddy Purcell, Marty St. Louis and Nate Thompson also scored, and goaltender Mathieu Garon had 27 saves, including bang-bang stops on Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich to spark, and assist on, Stamkos' rush with St. Louis that won the game.
A few blips, though.
Coach Guy Boucher said he was disappointed at open shots the team passed up. The power play, in a 5-for-55 slump, was brutal in its only chance. And by erasing a 3-1 second-period lead, the Capitals got a point for the regulation tie.
That might be crucial down the road if the playoff race tightens. But for now, center Nate Thompson said, "We just have to worry about getting two points. We're not worried about standings. We're worried about our own game and what we can control."
Tampa Bay seemed in control with 9:01 left in the second period, when Thompson scored for a 3-1 lead.
It was 3-2 with 6:53 left in the second, when Mathieu Perreault's pass to the slot deflected in off Thompson's skate — "My first two-goal game," Thompson joked — and Brouwer tied it 5:53 into the third after Matt Gilroy's defensive zone giveaway.
Add Vokoun's stop of Stamkos' breakaway that could have made it 4-2 and his dramatic, lunging glove save on Vinny Lecavalier in overtime and you could forgive Tampa Bay some head shaking.
But then came Garon's saves on Brouwer and Laich and four seconds later a give-and-go between St. Louis and Stamkos, who fed his teammate then scored on the rebound after Vokoun stopped St. Louis' in-close shot.
"He drew guys to the middle knowing Marty was going to cut to the side," Boucher said of Stamkos. "He put (the puck) in the perfect place, the perfect timing and speed for Marty to pick it up. Obviously, Stammer was hungry to crash (the net)."
Not even Vokoun could stop him.
First Period—1, Washington, Hendricks 2 (Laich), 16:55. 2, Tampa Bay, Purcell 13 (Downie, Stamkos), 18:50. Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by Connolly (too many men), 1:30.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 13 (Pyatt, Clark), 1:05. 4, Tampa Bay, Thompson 6 (Moore, Wyman), 10:59. 5, Washington, Perreault 8, 13:07. Penalties—Downie, TB, double minor (high-sticking), 2:23.
Third Period—6, Washington, Brouwer 15, 5:53. Penalties—Halpern, Was (goaltender interference), 11:41.
Overtime—7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 33 (St. Louis, Garon), 2:45. Penalties—None. Shots—Washington 8-9-10-2—29. Tampa Bay 10-11-6-4—31. Power plays—Washington 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 1. Goalies—Washington, Vokoun 20-12-1 (31 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Garon 15-13-2 (29-26). A—17,754 (19,204). T—2:24.