With 4.4 seconds remaining in the game and the Capitals clinging to a one-goal lead, Alex Ovechkin saw a seam on the right side of the ice, caught a pass from Mike Ribeiro and skated with a powerful purpose toward an empty net.

It didn’t matter that Tampa Bay Lighting center Alex Killorn stuck his stick out from the opposing bench to try to thwart Ovechkin’s attempt for his first empty-netter of the season.

Ovechkin kept motoring toward the empty cage before finishing with a slam dunk.

The goal was Ovechkin’s second of the game and 25th of the season, tying him with Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead.

Ovechkin now has 16 goals and seven assists in his last 14 games. The Caps are 10-3-1 in that span.

But there is more to this story than Ovechkin’s offensive outburst. It’s the fact that Oates had Ovechkin out on the ice in the final minute of a game the Caps were leading by one goal.

That’s something Dale Hunter never did in his 60 games as head coach last season. In fact, it was not unusual for Ovechkin to sit the bench for the final five minutes of a game the Caps were leading by a goal.

“I don’t want to talk about last year,” Ovechkin said after leading the Capitals to their eighth win in 10 games. “This year is much different. It’s trust. I don’t have that last year. When you have those kind of feelings you want to go out there and play for your coach and do your best out there.”

To his credit, Oates has helped transform Ovechkin into one of the NHL’s most dangerous players again by boldly moving him to right wing. But it’s the defensive responsibility Oates has given Ovechkin late in games that has revealed the trust he has in his 27-year-old captain.

“It’s part of evolving his game, like everybody,” Oates said.