Lightning coach John Tortorella warned his players not to take the Capitals lightly.
It didn't matter the Lightning was on a three-game winning streak and Washington had lost six straight, including two in overtime, and had not scored an even-strength goal in 154 minutes, 57 seconds.
"We'd better respect them or we'll get spanked," Tortorella said before Tuesday night's game. "We have no room to be thinking we're good enough to throw a uniform on and play."
As it turned out, the Lightning played well and still lost 5-2 at the St. Pete Times Forum thanks to Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig.
Tampa Bay outshot the Capitals 50-20, obliterating by 12 its season-high for shots. It also had a season-high 25 in the third period.
Washington's three-goal second period gave it a 4-0 lead, and Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist, who had won eight of nine games this month, was yanked after allowing three goals on 13 shots.
Compare that with Kolzig's 48 saves.
Tampa Bay also allowed a back-breaking short-handed goal early in the second period that made the score 2-0. It also failed on seven power-play chances, including a 49-second five-on-three in the third period.
Vinny Lecavalier scored his 11th goal and rookie Nick Tarnasky scored his NHL first in the third period.
The Lightning did everything in the first period but put the puck in the net, outshooting the Capitals 16-5 but trailing 1-0. Kris Beech did the damage by churning down the right wing. But he got past Lecavalier and beat Holmqvist high on the short side with 5:48 left in the period.
It was the Capitals' first even-strength goal in 169 minutes, 9 seconds.
It would not have loomed so large had the Lightning been able to cash in. But Kolzig was solid as he faced the opening onslaught.
Lecavalier tested Kolzig 1:02 into the period when he deflected Doug Janik's shot from the point. Tarnasky tested Kolzig at 3:05 when he tipped a shot from captain Tim Taylor, who stole the puck in Washington's zone.
Tampa Bay had a 9-1 shot advantage with 9:12 left. But Beech scored his team's second goal.
The Lightning put on a final furious push on a power play with Kolzig making huge stops on Dan Boyle from the point and Ryan Craig's tip from the slot.
The second period was deflating as Washington scored three times to take a 4-0 lead.
Boyd Gordon scored shorthanded 1:53 into the period on a breakaway. The play began with Marty St. Louis' giveaway in the Washington zone and Brad Richards' inability to get the puck away from Matt Pettinger. It didn't help that Holmqvist looked shabby on his save attempt.
With 3:31 left, Alexander Semin made it 3-0 on a bad goal that got Holmqvist chased after making just 10 saves on 13 shots. But Marc Denis did not fare much better, allowing one goal on two shots as Chris Clark scored with 1:30 remaining.
Tampa Bay had a 25-15 shot advantage at the end of the period.