TAMPA, Fla. — Pat Maroon scored twice in the third half, Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the collapsing Washington Capitals 5-1 on Thursday night.
Stamkos assisted Alex Killorn’s goal midway through the opening period and then scored his 32nd goal of the season with 2.8 seconds left to improve Tampa Bay by two.
Maroon, who started the game with three goals this season, scored early in the third period to give Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead and then finished the game with his second 3-32 from the end. Erik Cernak added a penalty goal from an empty net with 1:54 to go.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves for the Lightning, who have won back-to-back games after four straight losses.
“If we defend and play right, we win,” Maroon said. “You’ve seen that in recent years. We also play smarter with the puck. We know better and we know what is important. We’re too good a hockey team and we have too many veterans in here to fight like we do.”
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 last seven games and fell seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins to earn second place in the Eastern Conference wildcard playoffs.
“Nobody’s giving up here,” Smith said. “There is no stopping here.”
Tampa Bay opened the scoring at 9:20 in the first half when Killorn tapped Mikhail Sergachev’s palm shot past Kuemper on the power play off the left point. Stamkos gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead by beating Kuemper with a one-timer after a faceoff win by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
The Capitals resumed play in the second period, coming on the board with 3:50 left when Smith caught a miss off the end boards and backhanded it off Vasilevskiy’s left skate and over the goal line.
“Our first period was tough. We didn’t want to start like that,” said Capitals coach Peter Laviolette. “We had a much better second half and gave ourselves a chance to go into the third, but the start wasn’t good. We weren’t quick enough.”
Maroon used the rebound from Anthony Cirelli’s shot after 4:30 of the third period to restore the Lightning’s two-goal lead and then hit another rebound from Cirelli’s shot home.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper was elated to see his fourth line score some rough goals.
“Every time you score 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 have a pair there.”
With the playoffs approaching, Cirelli said focusing on hard work and defense is key.
“Of course we want to be a difficult team to play. We want to limit chances and opportunities, especially 5v5 chances,” he said. “We’ve been great in the past few games and we need to build on that. We have to keep eliminating chances and playing a great team defence. We have to take it to another level.”
Capitals forward TJ Oshie left the game after the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
REMARKS: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, whose 50 goals in 78 career games against the Lightning is the most he has scored against any team, was limited to two shots on target and was down 3 but had a career-high 11 goals. … The Capitals fell to 2-7-1 in the second game of consecutive sets. … The win was Vasilevskiy’s 221st since the start of the 2017-18 season, by far the most in the NHL; Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck is second with 194.
Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Lightning: Host the New York Islanders Saturday Night.
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