- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

TAMPA, Fla. — In one net was Washington backup Brent Johnson in his first start in 20 days and first since veteran Olie Kolzig was put on injured reserve.

At the other was demoted Tampa Bay goalie Marc Denis in his first start since Jan. 20.

In the middle were a whole lot of goal scorers salivating at the possibilities.

None left more satisfied than Martin St. Louis, who had the shootout winner to lead the Lightning past the Capitals 3-2 last night at St. Pete Times Forum.

The game was 14.9 seconds from being over after regulation when Washington center Dainius Zubrus netted the tying goal. From the side boards, Vincent Lecavalier turned the puck over in front of Denis, and Zubrus wristed a shot into the net.

“It’s a hard one to evaluate,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “I guess sometimes you should feel fortunate because it looked like we weren’t going to come out with a point and we get the big goal at the end. Overall, it was likely our best game of the year.”

The game would not have been nearly as low-scoring if not for the play of both goalies, who made the most of their opportunities.

Johnson made 27 saves and added two in the shootout. Denis had 36 saves and then stopped all three in the shootout.

“Not playing for two weeks I felt a little tired at the end, but I felt really good going into the shootout, and I thought we could pull it out,” Johnson said. “But Denis made some great saves, and it could have been a different scoring game if he hadn’t played so well.”

Alexander Semin scored his 30th goal of the season on the power play 9:07 into the game. Zubrus won the faceoff to Denis’ right and sent the puck back to Semin. Semin fired the puck, which banked off Lightning defenseman Nolan Pratt and rolled through Denis’ five hole.

The Caps outshot the Lightning 12-8 in the first 20 minutes, and Johnson staked them to a 1-0 lead. In the second period, Tampa Bay had a 10-6 shot advantage, and Lecavalier scored his NHL-leading 38th and 39th goals of the season.

Lecavalier’s first goal of the night was on a Lightning power play following a penalty on Johnson for a delay of game. The 26-year-old from Quebec blasted a one-timer past Johnson at 2:44 of the second period.

Four minutes later, St. Louis dug the puck out of the corner and dished it out front for Lecavalier, who snapped in his second goal of the game.

In the third, the Caps had 17 shots and Denis was stellar, especially on a pair of glove saves on a Washington power play midway through the period, until Zubrus’ goal.

Note — Center Kris Beech, left wing Ben Clymer and defenseman Steve Eminger were healthy scratches for the Caps.

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