TAMPA, Fla. — Close in goals and close in shots, it was obvious Washington and Tampa Bay were two teams rich with young talent coveting two points in the tight Eastern Conference.
The question was who would come through when their teams needed it most.
The answer definitely was not either team’s goaltenders.
Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig pointed the finger back at himself following last night’s 5-4 loss to the Lightning.
Kolzig allowed five goals on 25 shots and Lightning goaltender Johan Holmqvist gave up four goals in 22 in a game that was ruled by shooters.
“The team played terrific,” Kolzig said. “The goalie let them down tonight. I didn’t make the saves when I needed to make them.”
The Lightning’s Martin St. Louis scored the game-winning goal at the 3:22 mark of the third when he tipped in a pass from Vaclav Prospal, who pounced on a giveaway, digging the puck off the boards behind Kolzig and sending it behind him in front of the net.
“They’re good behind the net but it’s not like I’ve never played against them before,” Kolzig said. “I was just out of sync, that’s all I can say. It was one of those nights and the team almost bailed me out. I didn’t come up with the saves I needed to make and the team came away with no points because of it.”
Alexander Semin led Washington with two goals. Ben Clymer and Chris Clark scored the others. Alex Ovechkin had two assists.
The Caps remained upbeat despite starting their eight-day, four-game road trip with a loss.
Washington remained at 45 points and fell out of the eighth playoff spot, which now belongs to the Lightning. Toronto has 46 points after its win Thursday, but has two fewer wins than Tampa Bay.
“It was just an enjoyable game,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “We thought it was well played. The fans want to see scoring and we had a lot of skill out there. … We lost because we let up five goals.”
Tampa Bay center Ryan Craig gave the Lightning the 1-0 lead roughly five minutes into the contest with a glove side wraparound goal on Kolzig. It was Craig’s 11th goal of the season.
Picking on the Lightning’s worst-in-the-league penalty kill, Semin tied the game with a power play goal from the point on a feed across the blue line from Ovechkin.
Semin’s shot deflected off Lightning right wing St. Louis and slipped by Holmqvist’s stick side.
Tampa Bay reclaimed the lead 2-1 at 8:46 on a goal from center Vincent Lecavalier, his 25th of the season. Prospal deked through the Caps defense alongside the net and passed the puck out front to Lecavalier, who shot it past Kolzig.
In the second period Semin walked in front of Tampa Bay’s goal and fired a shot off Holmqvist’s blocker and into the net for his 24th goal to tie the game 2-2 at 5:40.
Clymer gave the Caps their first lead of the game at 10:02, taking a feed from Donald Brashear just out of the zone, slipping through defensemen Dan Boyle and Paul Ranger and shooting the puck under Holmqvist’s leg.
That lead didn’t last a minute as Prospal deflected a shot by Cory Sarich from the point at 11:15 to tie the game 3-3.
Sarich’s initial shot from the point pinballed off players from both teams, touching Prospal last before going in.
Lecavalier recorded his second goal of the game, giving Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead when a breakdown in Washington’s defense left him alone with Kolzig. That gave Lecavalier the opportunity to stickhandle and slip the puck through the five-hole.
The Caps answered with a goal from Chris Clark with less than 10 seconds left in the period to tie the game 4-4 after Clark took a cross-ice pass from Ovechkin.
Notes — This was the first game in the Caps’ longest road trip of the season. After leaving Tampa Bay, Washington goes to Florida on Saturday, Ottawa on the 16th and Carolina on the 18th. …
Center Brian Sutherby’s and Ovechkin’s heads collided in the Caps’ defensive zone midway through the third period. Both lay on the ice for a couple of minutes before skating back to the bench.