TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Pat Maroon scored twice in the third period, Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the slumping Washington Capitals 5-1 on Thursday night.
Stamkos assisted on Alex Killorn’s goal midway through the opening period, then scored his 32nd of the season with 2.8 seconds left to put Tampa Bay up by two.
Maroon, who entered the game with three goals this season, scored early in the third period to give Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead, then put the game away with his second with 3:32 to go. Erik Cernak added a short-handed, empty-net goal with 1:54 remaining.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves for the Lightning, who’ve won back-to-back games after losing four in a row.
“If we defend and play the right way, we win,” Maroon said. “You’ve seen it the past few years. We’re playing smarter with the puck too. We know better and we know what it takes. We’re too good of a hockey team and we have too many veterans in here to struggle like we have.”
Craig Smith scored and Darcy Kuemper, playing for the second straight night, made 29 saves for the Capitals. They are 1-4-2 in their past seven games and fell seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
“No one here is giving up,” Smith said. “There’s no quit here.”
Tampa Bay opened the scoring 9:20 into the first period when Killorn tipped Mikhail Sergachev’s power-play wrist shot from the left point past Kuemper. Stamkos put the Lightning up 2-0 by beating Kuemper with a one-timer after a faceoff win by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
The Capitals picked up their play in the second period and got on the board with 3:50 left when Smith picked up a missed shot off the end boards and backhanded it off Vasilevskiy’s left skate and over the goal line.
“Our first period was tough. That wasn’t the way we wanted to start,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “We had a much better second period and gave ourselves a chance going into the third, but the start was no good. We weren’t quick enough.”
Maroon tapped in the rebound of Anthony Cirelli’s shot 4:30 into the third period to restore the Lightning’s two-goal lead, then banged home another rebound off Cirelli’s shot.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper was delighted to see his fourth line produce a couple of gritty goals.
“Anytime you’re getting those goals two feet from the net, you’re doing something right and putting yourself in the right area,” he said. “It’s good for Patty to get a couple there.”
With the playoffs approaching, Cirelli said focusing on hard work and defense is key.
“Obviously, we want to be a hard team to play against. We want to limit chances and opportunities, especially 5-on-5 chances,” he said. “We’ve been great over the past few games, and we have to keep building on that. We have to continue to eliminate chances and play great team defense. We have to bring it up to another level.”
Capitals forward T.J. Oshie left the game after the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
NOTES: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, whose 50 goals in 78 career games against the Lightning are the most he’s scored against any team, was limited to two shots on goal and was minus-3 but had a career-high 11 hits. … The Capitals fell to 2-7-1 in the second game of back-to-back sets. … The victory was Vasilevskiy’s 221st since the start of the 2017-18 season, by far the most in the NHL; Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets is second with 194.
Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Lightning: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
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