When the NHL was realigned, the Washington Capitals were expected to run away with the relatively weak Southeast Division.
Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Wendel Clark scored two goals as Tampa Bay beat Washington 5-2 Wednesday night, extending the Capitals' winless streak to five games.
"It was a team we have to beat in the playoffs," Clark said. "It's another thing that's a positive. They were one of the best teams in the league last year. Any time you beat one of the best teams in the league, you're happy."
Daren Puppa made 34 saves for the Lightning, who finished a four-game road trip 2-2. It was the first Southeast Division victory for Tampa Bay, which had been 0-2-1 against division opponents.
Joe Juneau had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who are 0-3-2 in the last five games. Washington is 3-5-3 overall, the first time in coach Ron Wilson's 93-game tenure the team has slumped two games under .500.
"There's a sense of urgency no matter who we're playing," said Washington winger Brian Bellows, who scored his first goal of the season. "We thought about it being a division game, but we need to get back on track."
Despite a 36-18 edge in shots, Washington continued to struggle. Since beating Tampa Bay 4-1 on Oct. 18, the Capitals have scored nine goals in seven games.
The loss to the Lightning was Washington's first division setback, and the teams don't meet again until Feb. 3.
Puppa had trouble explaining the Caps' offensive troubles.
"They've got quality players over there ... premier players in the league," Puppa said. "They've got some defensemen who can put the puck in the net. Every team oes through that in this league."
Andrei Nazarov, Steve Kelly and Daymond Langkow also scored for the Lightning.
Adam Oates got his 800th career assist for the Capitals.
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead when Clark scored his seventh goal on a wrist shot from between the circles with 1:05 left in the first period.
Bellows and Nazarov traded goals in a 1:20 span early in the second period. Bellows got his first of the season off a pass from Juneau at 1:07. Nazarov responded with a shot that bounced off a Washington defender for his first goal and a 2-1 lead.
Kelly scored on a rebound of Cory Cross' hard shot from the right point at 13:21, giving Tampa Bay a two-goal cushion that stood until Juneau's power-play goal with 1:15 left in the period.
With Washington holding a two-man advantage, Juneau fired a slap shot past Puppa from the left circle.
Clark got his second goal of the night with Tampa Bay skating 5-on-3 early in the third period. His shot from the left side struck Olaf Kolzig and rolled over the goalie as he slid to block it.
Langkow had an empty-net goal with seven seconds left.
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