TAMPA, Fla. -- The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning left the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday night in vastly different conditions than after their season opener in January.
A 4-3 Washington victory left the teams just two points apart in the standings but the Capitals continued to settle after a horrendous start the campaign, winning their third straight.
The Lightning (6-6-1, 13 points) meanwhile, lost for the sixth consecutive time despite another feverish last-ditch rush. Eric Fehr tripled his season total with two goals and Mathieu Perreault had three assists for Washington.
Washington (5-8-1, 11 points), playing with much better intensity and precision than on opening night, took a 1-0 lead with less than three minutes gone by generating a power play that Troy Brouwer turned into a goal.
Brouwer wristed in a shot from the slot to beat Mathieu Garon after taking a pass from the side of the net. It was Brouwer's seventh goal.
Martin St. Louis' first goal in 11 games and fourth of the season tied the game, 1-1, with 11:37 left in the period when he collected a rebound from a Braden Holtby save and jammed the puck in near side before the goaltender could recoup.
Washington retook the lead with 14:51 left in the second period when Joel Ward beat defenseman Matt Carle to a puck behind the Tampa Bay net, negating icing, and flipped the puck back to Eric Fehr for a close tapper. The goal was Fehr's second of the season. Washington led, 2-1, entering the third.
Fehr added another from much farther away for a 3-1 lead less than three minutes into the third period. He crushed a shot over Garon's glove from beyond the faceoff circle on a 2-on-2 breakout. Jay Beagle upped the lead to 4-1 with a grinder goal in the crease with 12:31 remaining.
Teddy Purcell ignited Tampa Bay when he scored with 7:58 remaining and Nate Thompson cut the deficit to 4-3 with 3:13 left when he took a pass from St. Louis to split the defense, juke Holtby and score on a break.
NOTES: Brouwer has at least a goal in three straight games. ... Washington defenseman John Carlson played in his 200th NHL game. ... St. Louis scored a goal for the first time in 11 games. ... Tampa Bay entered a loser of five consecutively (the last on Tuesday, 4-3, in a shootout against Montreal). ... The Lightning has sold out all seven home games this season. ... Washington ended a four-game losing streak to Tampa Bay. ... The Lightning entered leading the league in goals (46) but had scored just nine in its previous five games. ... Fifteen different Lightning players have scored goals this season. ... Washington forward Brooks Laich has been cleared for contact as he attempts to return from a groin injury suffered playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. ... Tampa Bay and Montreal swapped minor league goaltenders on Tuesday, Dustin Tokarsk, 23, (18-8-4, 2.46 GAA, .900 save percentage at Syracuse) going to Montreal in exchange for Cedrick Desjardins, 27 (7-13-2, with a 2.94, .905 save percentage for Hamilton). Desjardins played for the Lightning in 2010-11, winning twice.