Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, right, reaches for the puck to score a goal past Washington Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer (31), of Germany, in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON - Alex Ovechkin took aim with little resistance, and the Washington Capitals staged an improbable comeback.
Ovechkin scored four goals, including the equalizer with 32.4 seconds left in regulation, and the Capitals beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-5 in a shootout Tuesday night.
Washington trailed 3-0 with 12 minutes elapsed, 4-2 in the second period and 5-4 for much of the third period before rallying for its fifth win in six games.
"Even when they got their fourth goal, I still thought, we can do this," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "And then they got another one, and the guys believed. You don't want to get to this position too many times because it's not going to be easy to pull a rabbit out of your hat."
When Ovechkin is on his game, perhaps anything is possible.
"We just felt we could come back and win," he said.
Ovechkin increased his NHL-leading total to 26 goals and became Washington's career leader in power-play goals, scoring twice with the extra man to pass Peter Bondra, who had 137.
"What took you so long?" Bondra said with a grin during a pre-recorded interview displayed on the scoreboard.
Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and four assists, and Troy Brouwer beat Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop in the fifth round of the shootout to provide the Capitals with their only lead.
"We've had a few of these games where we've had to come from behind, maybe not in such dramatic fashion, but we came in here after the first (period) and we thought it would be a great story if we could pull it out," Brouwer said.
Martin St. Louis and Tyler Johnson each had a goal and two assists for the Lightning, who lost their sixth straight at Washington.
"He didn't even have to work for his goals," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said of Ovechkin. "He didn't move on the first one, he didn't move on the last two at all. If you're going to let that guy take shots, well, this is sometimes going to happen. That's the disappointing part."
Ondrej Palat scored on a wrist shot between the circles after taking Johnson's centring pass from behind the net to put Tampa Bay up 5-4 at 8:36 of the third period.
It appeared that would hold up until Ovechkin scored from the left circle after Washington pulled goalie Philipp Grubauer.
"He's a pure sniper," Oates said. "The fourth goal, with the ice conditions at that time, the length of the pass, the weight on the pass, that's an incredible shot. That's why he's a superstar."
Washington trailed 4-2 when Tampa Bay's Richard Panik received a 5-minute major for boarding at 16:31 of the second period. Panik rudely sent Karl Alzner into the side boards, and soon after Alzner headed to the locker room for treatment, Washington went to work.
Ovechkin scored 7 seconds into the penalty and added a wrist shot from the left circle at 18:48 to tie it. An instant after the red light flipped on behind the goal, fans showered the ice with hats.
"This is a game we should have won," St. Louis said. "We just couldn't close it."
Early on, it seemed unlikely the Capitals would even make it close.
Washington defenceman Mike Green was called for four penalties during the first period and had a 10-minute misconduct tacked to the ledger, all of which helped Tampa Bay get off to a torrid start.
St. Louis and Nikita Kucherov scored power-play goals and Nate Thompson converted a 2-on-1 rush with J.T. Brown to make it 3-0 and chase goalie Braden Holtby.
NOTES: Tampa Bay C Steven Stamkos missed his 13th consecutive game with a broken right leg. ... It was the third game in which Washington scored at least three power-play goals. The Capitals have 18 power-play goals in their last 19 games. ... Bishop came in with a 1.98 goals-against average.