LANDOVER -- It was hard to distinguish the expansion team from the veteran playoff team last night at the Capital Centre.
The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't look like the typical expansion punching bag to Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray, either.
"When you take a look at what they have in the lineup, they're not an expansion team," Murray said after his slumping Caps salvaged a 2-2 tie in overtime in their first meeting with the Lightning.
"They play very well as a team. They're playing as good as they'll ever play. They can't get better than that right now."
And as the crowd of 15,829 could attest, the Capitals are playing about as badly as they can.
They produced both their goals off their limping power play last night, but left the ice littered with blown chances.
"We have quality, quality chances," Murray said. "Even late in the game we had chances.
"I think we're pressing. Our shots are released so quickly. We're trying to find out where the perfect spot is rather than put it in the net."
It took a slap shot from Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson from just inside the blue line on a power play to get the 2-2 tie with 7:50 left in regulation. Before and after, there was only frustration.
The overtime was especially galling for the Caps. One minute into sudden death, Paul MacDermid fired a shot into Pat Jablonski's midsection. Some 15 seconds later, Kevin Hatcher found Jablonski's belly.
When Jablonski stopped a shot from Kelly Miller from the left of the circle in the final 30 seconds of overtime, the Caps' misery was complete.
"We put a lot of pucks into his stomach," Murray said of Jablonski, who stopped 31 shots. "Ask any goalie, and I think he'd tell you that's where he wants it."
The Caps trailed through most of the game, as goalie Jim Hrivnak, with 23 saves, kept them close.
Tampa Bay's Chris Kontos, who started the night as the NHL's third-leading scorer with 13 goals, got his 14th on a first-period power play. Kontos deflected a blue-line shot from Joe Reekie past Hrivnak.
The Caps tied the game with 3:32 left in the second period. Steve Konowalchuk tipped a rebound past Jablonski for his second goal since being recalled from the Skipjacks last week. It, too, came on a power play.
Little more than two minutes later, Tampa Bay's Brian Bradley flipped his rebound over a fallen Hrivnak for the go-ahead score.
NOTES: There were no decisions on the status of Rod Langway yesterday, but there was a new twist. The 35-year-old Capitals defenseman, who was told Thursday that his playing time will be cut, was found to have a slight tear in his left knee cartilage during an examination by team physician Dr. Stephen Haas. Langway will be examined again Tuesday to determine if arthroscopic surgery is necessary. If so, it will be done Tuesday and Langway will be out three weeks. Langway has been mulling his options since a meeting with general manager David Poile at which Langway was told his playing time would be reduced the rest of the season. He had been scratched in two of the past three games at the time of the meeting and failed to score a point in 11 games. A team spokesman said there would be no further discussions with Langway until Tuesday's examination. Langway told The Washington Post on Thursday he does not want to retire, eliminating one of the options.. . . . The Caps called up Byron Dafoe from the Skipjacks to be the backup goalie for tonight's game in Hartford.
Tampa Bay .1 1 0 0 -- 2
Washington 1 0 1 0 -- 2