By Chuck Gormley
Marcus Johansson breathed life into the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin took care of resuscitating their season.
Johansson scored with 3:58 remaining in regulation and Ovechkin scored with 50.3 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Capitals a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning and snap a four-game losing.
The win pushes the Capitals into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 72 points. The Winnipeg Jets also have 72 points but the Caps have one more win.
The victory also allowed the Caps to make up ground on the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, who lost to the Flyers in Philadelphia and now lead the Caps and Jets by just two points. The Caps also moved two points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, who lost to the Bruins in Boston.
The Caps were 3 minutes, 58 seconds away from ending their five-game homestand with their fourth straight loss when Johansson scored to tie the game at 2-2 with his 13th goal of the season.
Johansson and Brooks Laich worked hard to dig the puck out of the corner and when the puck kicked out to Dennis Wideman the defenseman found Johansson alone on rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski.
Johansson measured Tokarski, who was making his first NHL start, and beat him between the pads, sending the Capitals into overtime for the second straight game.
Ovechkin finished off the Lightning when he drilled an open shot past Tokarski for his team-high 27th goal of the season.
Facing a 22-year-old goalie making his first NHL start and a team barking at their heels in the Eastern Conference standings the Caps made just enough mistakes against the Tampa Bay Lightning to fall 2-1 in front of a loud and passionate crowd at the Verizon Center.
If only the Caps had played with the same passion in the second period.
Thats when a 1-0 lead turned into a 2-1 deficit, thanks to power-play goals by Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell.
The Caps have the fourth fewest first-period goals in the NHL this season (43) but they managed to take a 1-0 lead on Keith Aucoins second goal as a Capital.
Aucoin played just 2:55 in the opening period but got in the way of a Karl Alzner slap shot that appeared to carom off his stick and behind rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski, who was making his first career NHL start.
The Caps outshot the Lightning 15-13 in the opening period but came out flat-footed in the second period and the Lightning made them pay on the power play.
The Caps parade to the sin bin started at the 6:58 mark when defenseman Dennis Wideman avoided a check by J.T. Wyman, then sent him into the boards for a boarding penalty. Wideman strongly argued the call with referee Dan OHalloran and it didnt help his mood when the Lightning scored on the power play.
Ryan Malone was the beneficiary of a perfect cross-ice feed from Steven Stamkos, who threaded the puck past Alzner. The puck caromed off Malones skate and was reviewed, but it was ruled there was no kicking motion.
The Caps managed to kill off a senseless high-sticking penalty to Mathieu Pereault, who inexplicably raised his stick into the face of Tom Pyatt, but were not as fortunate when Jay Beagle went to the box for holding Teddy Purcell.
This time it was a self-inflicted wound that hurt the Capitals. Tomas Vokoun kicked out a shot by Pucell with his left pad, but the puck rebounded onto the skate of Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who inadvertently redirected it into his own net with 1:18 remaining in the second period.
The Caps had a golden opportunity to tie the score in the third period when Eric Brewer took an interference penalty just 36 seconds into the period. But Brooks Laich missed an easy tap-in off a pass from Alex Ovechkin, evoking a huge groan from the crowd.
The Capitals power play continues to struggle. It went 0-for-2 and has now gone seven games without a goal (0-for-16). In their last 22 games, the Caps power play has scored as many goals (five) as theyve scored (5-for-60).
Against the Lightning, the Caps went with a top unit of Alex Ovechkin, Dennis Wideman and Mike Green as an umbrella and Alex Semin and Brooks Laich down low. Their second unit had Wideman and Green up top and Mathieu Perreault, Marcus Johansson and Troy Brower down low.