WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals showed they can play just as well for head coach Bruce Boudreau as they did for interim coach Bruce Boudreau.
Now, if the Capitals can only find another excuse to give Boudreau a promotion, perhaps they can make a significant move in the NHL standings.
Hours after Boudreau formally got the job he coveted, Washington marked the occasion by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 Wednesday night. Matt Bradley scored the tiebreaking goal with 2:53 left, and David Steckel had a goal and two assists to help the Capitals ended a three-game skid.
Before the game, Washington removed the "interim" tag from Boudreau's title and formally named him the 14th head coach in the history of the franchise. The players responded with a victory, just as they did after Boudreau took over for the fired Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving.
"It's a great reward for me. I wonder what other title we can have, because every time it seems to work for a win," Boudreau said. "It was fabulous."
Twice the Capitals rallied from one-goal deficits, no small feat for a team that was 4-13-4 when the opposition scores first.
"We didn't score the first goal, but we kept on coming and kept on coming, and we were rewarded," Boudreau said.
Bradley's goal came after Steckel took a shot that was deflected and hit Tampa Bay rookie goalie Karri Ramo in the chest. The rebound bounced upward, and Steckel tipped the puck in the air before Bradley whisked it past Ramo as the net came unhinged.
"It was just a matter of whether the net was off, I guess," Bradley said. "I was pretty confident."
Washington improved to 8-5-3 under Boudreau, including 5-1-1 against Southeast Division foes.
"We all treat him as a coach here - and not as an interim coach," Bradley said. "He definitely deserves it."
Vincent Lecavalier scored both Tampa Bay goals. The Lightning have lost five of six and are an NHL-worst 3-13-1 on the road.
Coach John Tortorella wasn't angry about the call on the final goal; he was far more irate at the way his team played.
"I didn't want to hear an explanation. You get what you deserve," he said.
Asked if his players were frustrated about their recent slide, Tortorella said, "I hope they're frustrated. I'm not so sure they are. I don't know what to tell you. There's a lot of things we need to get better at. We're a (terrible) hockey team right now.
"Everybody says 'Don't panic. Don't panic.' There had better be some panic going on within this club to get this turned around, or it's going to spiral to where you have no luck at all."
Tortorella did, however, applaud the performance of Ramo, who had several outstanding stops among his 29 saves.
"Don't talk to me about the net being off or this and that," Tortorella said. "It could have been 8-2."
Lecavalier opened the scoring at 5:43 of the first period, putting in his own rebound of a shot he initially took from the right circle.
Midway through the period, Ramo made several spectacular saves with Washington on the power play. Steckel tied it late in the period, however, stuffing in a rebound of his own shot after Ramo left the puck exposed in the crease.
Lecavalier put Tampa Bay back on top midway through the second period, breaking free in the Capitals' zone and beating Olie Kolzig with a wrist shot from the left circle.
Brian Pothier made it 2-all late in the period with a slap shot from behind the right circle.
Notes: Tampa Bay has not allowed a power-play goal in four straight games. The Lightning went 4-for-4 on penalty kills against the Capitals and have snuffed 11 over the four-game stretch. ... Thirteen of Lecavalier's 25 goals have come in the second period. ... Washington's Alex Ovechkin had an assist in his 200th NHL game.