Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - Alex Ovechkin's fourth goal of the night tied the game with 32.4 seconds remaining in regulation, and the Washington Capitals ultimately prevailed in a shootout to post a thrilling 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center.
Ovechkin's efforts, along with a one-goal, four-assist performance from Nicklas Backstrom, enabled the Capitals to overcome an early 3-0 deficit and notch their third consecutive victory and fifth in six outings.
"We've been in this situation before," said Ovechkin. "I think we were down 3-1 versus Detroit [a 4-3 shootout win on Nov. 15] after the second period, and I'm sure everybody knows we have lots of time left and we just have to take one at a time. The second goal by Nicky was huge, and we just felt we can come back and we can win the game."
Philipp Grubauer aided Washington's cause by stopping 32-of-34 shots after relieving an ineffective Braden Holtby, who let up three Tampa Bay goals on just eight chances before being pulled just after the 11-minute mark.
The Lightning were dealt a sixth straight road defeat despite Martin St. Louis and Tyler Johnson recording a goal and two assists each. Ondrej Palat had a goal and one assist in the loss, with Ben Bishop recording 26 saves for Tampa Bay.
Washington spotted Tampa Bay an early 3-0 lead and were down 4-2 late in the second period before a major boarding penalty to the Lightning's Richard Panik changed the game's momentum.
Ovechkin needed just seven seconds after the call to pull his team within one, racing up the left wing to knock home a pass from Marcus Johansson with 3:22 to go in the stanza.
While still on the extended power play, Ovechkin later fired a blast from the left circle that rocketed past Bishop to complete his 13th career hat trick and send the game all square heading into the third period.
St. Louis set up Palat for a successful wrister 8:36 into the third to put the Lighting back ahead, and it remained a 5-4 game into the final stages of regulation.
With Grubauer lifted for an extra attacker, the Caps worked the puck for Ovechkin to launch a long drive from the left point that Bishop got a piece of, but it caromed over his right shoulder and in to force extra time.
"He is a pure sniper," Capitals head coach Adam Oates said of Ovechkin, "I mean, the fourth goal with the ice conditions at that time, the length of the pass and the weight on the pass - that's an incredible shot. It really is. That's why he's a superstar."
Following a quiet overtime and goals by Washington's Eric Fehr and Tampa's Nikita Kucherov in the first three shootout rounds, Mikhail Grabovski put the Capitals ahead in the fourth go-around before Teddy Purcell kept the Lightning alive with a hard shot through Grubauer's pads.
Troy Brouwer then opened the fifth round for Washington by finding the top right corner of the net, and Grubauer stopped Palat with his blocker to give the Caps the two points.
"This is a game we should have won," said St. Louis. "We had that game. A bunch of times we had that game, we just couldn't close it."
Much earlier, Tampa Bay made the most of a pair of high-sticking penalties to Capitals defenseman Mike Green to build a 2-0 lead just past the midway mark of the opening period.
The first came a mere 2:26 in, with St. Louis sending a wrister that made its way in through heavy traffic in front of Holtby. Kucherov extended the margin with 9:11 left in the frame with the rookie's second career NHL goal, a wicked one-timer off a Purcell feed.
Tampa struck again just 18 seconds after Kucherov's goal, as J.T. Brown forced a turnover in the neutral zone to start a 2-on-1 with Nate Thompson in which the latter ended Holtby's night by converting the chance.
Ovechkin gave the Capitals a bit of momentum later in the period, launching a quick shot past a startled Bishop immediately after Backstrom won a draw in the Lightning end, and Washington inched closer with a power-play tally early in the second.
With the Caps skating on a 5-on-4, Grabovski tapped the puck back to Backstrom, who connected into an open right side from the slot to bring Washington within 3-2 with 6:24 elapsed in the middle session.
The one-goal differential was extended to two just over six minutes later, as Johnson put in a rebound after St. Louis led a rush up the ice.