Brouwer's hat trick lead Caps over Lightning 4-3
Troy Brouwer got his first career hat trick, and Alex Ovechkin also scored Friday night as the Washington Capitals held on for a 4-3 victory that handed the Tampa Bay Lightning a sixth straight loss.
Ovechkin and Brouwer scored power-play goals in the first 6 minutes, and Brouwer went on to score in the second and third periods for the Capitals, who have won six straight at home and six of eight overall to move back into playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Tomas Vokoun, getting his eighth consecutive start, made 28 saves to follow up his 1-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. Washington is 11-9-1 since Dale Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau as coach in late November.
Dennis Wideman, named to his first All-Star game on Thursday, had an assist on both early goals. Ovechkin is the Capitals' other selection, and his goal ended a three-game pointless streak.
Steven Stamkos scored his league-leading 30th goal, and Tom Pyatt and Vincent Lecavalier also netted for the Lightning, who climbed out of a 3-0 hole to make the game close in the final minutes. It was 3-2 before Brouwer's empty-netter, his 14th goal of the season, and Lecavalier scored just before the final horn.
Still winless in 2012, the Lightning committed three penalties - high sticking on Pavel Kubina, interference on Martin St. Louis and delay of game on Eric Brewer - before some of the fans had settled into the seats.
The Capitals are still pained by Tampa Bay's sweep of Washington in last year's playoffs, so the team in red was eager to take advantage. Ovechkin scored his 18th goal at 3:52 with a blast from just inside the blue line after St. Louis' infraction, and Brouwer went 5-hole on goaltender Dwayne Roloson from close range at 5:45 while Brewer was in the box.
Coach Guy Boucher criticized his team's first-period attitude, work ethic and discipline after the Lightning allowed four goals in the first 20 minutes of a 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, but his team was off to another bad start against the Capitals.
Brouwer put in a rebound for his 13th goal of the season to give the Capitals a three-goal lead in the second period. Pyatt got the Lightning on the board later in the period, receiving the puck after a brilliant steal-from-behind by St. Louis on Washington's Mike Knuble.
Stamkos scored on a power play late in a game that became chippy. Stamkos took exception when Brouwer rammed St. Louis in the boards. Stamkos came from halfway across the rink to retaliate, and he and Brouwer were both sent to the penalty box - Stamkos for roughing, and Brouwer for roughing and boarding.
Notes: Washington C Nicklas Backstrom missed his fourth straight game since taking an elbow to the head. Capitals D Mike Green, on long-term injured reserve with a groin injury, can't return until Feb. 1 at the earliest. ... The Capitals allowed a power-play goal at the Verizon Center for the first time in 11 home games under Hunter.