WASHINGTON -- Two seasons ago, when he finished with a career-low 32 goals, many wondered if Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin would ever score 40 goals again.
Since the arrival of head coach Adam Oates, the 28-year-old winger has unearthed his powerful shot and his ability to dominate hockey games has returned.
On Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ovechkin scored a season-high four goals to lead the Capitals to a thrilling come-from-behind 6-5 shootout victory in the nation's capital.
"He is a pure sniper," Oates said after seeing Ovechkin send the game into overtime and winger Troy Brouwer win it in the shootout. "I mean, the fourth goal, with the ice conditions at that time and the length of the pass and the weight of the pass, that's an incredible shot. It really is. That's why he's a superstar."
Ovechkin's four goals were the most he's scored in a game since Jan. 31, 2008, against the Montreal Canadiens. He now leads the NHL with 26 goals in 29 games, putting him on pace for a career-high 73 if he plays the remaining 51 games.
"Let's face it, you can't leave No. 8," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after seeing his team blow an early 3-0 lead. "He didn't even have to work for his goals. He didn't move on the first one. He didn't move on the last two at all. If you're going to let that guy take shots, well, this is sometimes going to happen."
The Ligthning opened up a 3-0 lead on goals by right winger Martin St. Louis, right winger Nikita Kucherov and center Nate Thompson, but minor penalties to center Alex Killorn, defenseman Eric Brewer and a boarding major to right winger Richard Panik led to four power-play goals by the Capitals, three of them by Ovechkin and another by center Nicklas Backstrom, who finished with one goal and four assists.
Ovechkin sent the game into overtime when he scored his fourth goal of the night with 32.4 seconds remaining in regulation, completing the comeback.
"We've been in this situation before," Ovechkin said of the early deficit. "I'm sure everybody knows we have lot of time left and we just have to take one at a time."
The win was the Capitals (17-12-2) third straight and fifth in six games. They also moved within seven points of the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.
The Lightning received one goal and two assists from St. Louis and center Tyler Johnson, but it was not enough to prevent them from losing for the second straight game and falling to 17-10-3. It was their first shootout loss after winning their previous three.
"This a game we should have won," said St. Louis, who opened the scoring with his 13th goal. "We had that game. A bunch of times we had that game. We just couldn't close it."
Lightning left winger Ondrej Palat gave Tampa a 4-3 lead 8:36 into the third period, but he was stopped on the final attempt of the shootout by rookie Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who relieved Braden Holtby after the Lightning took a 3-0 lead.
Thanks to 18 minutes in penalties to Washington defenseman Mike Green -- all in the first period, the Lightning jumped out to the early lead. Green's double-minor for high sticking center Valtteri Filppula resulted in each of the Lightning's first two goals. The Capitals killed off the next two penalties to Green, but he argued hard enough after his third infraction of the night to warrant a 10-minute misconduct.
After Thompson gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead by finishing a 2-on-1 with right winger J.T. Brown, it seemed a rout was in order.
But a slashing penalty to Killorn opened to the door for the Capitals and Ovechkin hammered his first goal of the night past goaltender Ben Bishop, drilling a faceoff win by Backstrom through a screen.
Another Lightning penalty -- this one to Brewer for holding -- led to the Capitals' second goal of the night, a power-play tally by Backstrom 6:24 into the second period.
Johnson restored the Lightning's two-goal lead with his seventh goal of the season at the 12:41 mark, but another Tampa penalty again tilted the game in Washington's favor.
With 3:29 remaining in the second period, Panik drove Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner hard into the boards in front of the penalty box for a 5-minute boarding major.
That's when Ovechkin went to work.
He darted into the left faceoff circle to score his second goal of the night off a cross-crease feed from winger Marcus Johansson at the 16:38 mark. Just 2:10 later, with Panik still in the box, Ovechkin took a pass from Green and rifled his third goal of the game and 25th of the season, past Bishop to tie the score at 4.
NOTES: Lightning RW Marty St. Louis entered the game with 939 points in 1,009 games, ranking him 91st on the NHL's all-time points list. Before the game, Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates, who ranks 17th all-time with 1,420 points, was asked if St. Louis is a future Hall of Famer. "Yeah," Oates said. "He won a scoring title (twice). (He was) MVP of the league. Won a Stanley Cup. Played a long time. It took him a long time to get there, a late bloomer, but his numbers are there. Borderline superstar, right?" ... Tampa C Steven Stamkos sat out his 13th straight game with a broken right leg. The Lightning entered Tuesday night's game 5-5-2 without their leading goal scorer, who had 23 points in his first 17 games. ... The Capitals were without C Brooks Laich (lower-body injury) for the sixth straight game. Before the game, the Capitals re-assigned D Patrick Wey to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. ... The Capitals entered the game with 92 goals, second behind the Penguins in the Eastern Conference. ... The Capitals return to action Friday night when they visit the Florida Panthers. They follow with back-to-back games against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, then embark on a three-game road trip to New Jersey, Detroit and Long Island.