WASHINGTON -- Back when the Washington Capitals were 2-8-1 and sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference, right wing Troy Brouwer firmly believed their path to the Stanley Cup playoffs would be through the Southeast Division.
Two months later it appears he was right.
Brouwer was the first of six different goal scorers for the Capitals Saturday night as they wrung out their seventh straight victory, a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning at the Verizon Center.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green provided the heroics when he blasted a power-play slap shot past Mathieu Garon for the game-winner 2:59 into the extra period.
The Capitals were awarded the power play when Marcus Johansson drove the net and was pulled down by Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier.
Washington is now 11-1-1 in its last 13 games and has opened up a four-point lead over the idle Winnipeg Jets in the race for the Southeast title and the third seed in the playoffs.
The Capitals are now 21-9-1 since their dreadful start and believing they can create some magic in the post-season.
If they get there they'll thank the four other teams in the division. The Caps are now a combined 13-3-0 against the Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes and Jets. They will play their final divisional game April 23 against the Jets.
The Lightning (17-22-2) suffered their third loss of the season at the hands of the Capitals and have now dropped four of their last five.
They gave the Caps a good fight.
Trailing by scores of 4-0 and 5-1 early in the second period, the Lightning rallied to within one on two goals each by Martin St. Louis and Richard Panik to make the final 15 minutes of regulation a tense affair.
The Caps opened up their big leads on goals by Brouwer, Jack Hillen, Alex Ovechkin, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr.
With his goal, Ovechkin took over the NHL scoring lead with 27 goals, one more than Tampa's Steven Stamkos, who was held without a goal for the sixth time in seven games.
Ovechkin stormed down the right wing and went forehand to backhand to beat Ben Bishop, who was pulled after allowing three goals on 20 shots in the first period.
The Caps kept coming in the second period when Mathieu Perreault set up goals by Chimera and Fehr to make it 5-1 with 5:26 gone in the second period, but that was all the incentive the Lightning needed.
St. Louis drew the Bolts within 5-2 with 1:13 remaining in the second period and the Lightning carried that momentum into the third period when Panik and St. Louis scored again, setting up Teddy Purcell for his game-tying goal with 2:35 remaining in regulation.
NOTES: Mike Ribeiro's first-period assist on Troy Brouwer's power-play goal was his 21st power-play point of the season, putting him two behind NHL leader P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. It was also Ribeiro's 600th NHL point. ... The game featured the NHL's leading goal scorers, with Ovechkin and Stamkos sharing the lead with 26. Ovechkin won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy in 2008 and 2009. Stamkos won it in 2010 and 2012. ... The Lightning entered the game 12-10-0 when Stamkos scored a goal and 5-11-2 when he did not. Washington was 15-3-1 when Ovechkin scored and 7-14-1 when he didn't. ... The Capitals entered the game 13-1-1 in their last 15 home games against the Lightning. Tampa right wing St. Louis entered the game ranked 97th on the NHL's all-time scoring list with 902 points, six behind former Capitals defenseman Scott Stevens, who is 96th on the list. Capitals forward Fehr played in his 300th NHL game. ... The Lightning continue their four-game road trip Sunday night in Buffalo. The Caps are back in action Tuesday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.