Capitals post 10th straight win over Lightning

WASHINGTON (AP) — For more than two periods, the game was about
possible retribution for a week-old goal celebration by Alex

Then, with the score tied in the third, the player whose career
was nearly ended by a concussion scored his first goal in the
more than a year, an emotional moment that brought the Verizon
Center to its feet.

Brian Pothier’s slap shot with 15:30 remaining proved to be the
winning goal, and the Washington Capitals maintained their
dominance over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night with a
5-3 victory.

Ovechkin scored his 52nd and 53rd goals – and did nothing
over-the-top after the puck went in either time – and added two
assists for the Capitals, who blew a 3-1 first-period lead
before holding on to beat the Lightning for the 10th straight
time. Nicklas Backstrom scored his 20th and 21st goals.
Ovechkin reached 100 points for the season with his second goal,
an empty-netter with seven seconds to play.

Martin St. Louis scored his 29th, and Steven Stamkos and Vaclav
Prospal added goals for the Lightning.

Pothier’s career was in jeopardy after he was checked into the
boards by Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic on January 3, 2008.
The 31-year-old defenseman had headaches and dizziness for
nearly a year, and he wasn’t able to skate until a specialist
fitted him with glasses that fixed his vision problems. He made
his NHL return on March 16 – defying suggestions from some who
suggested he retire – and continues to do daily eye exercises.

This was Pothier’s fourth game back, and his scoring shot
threaded through a crowd of players to beat goaltender Mike
McKenna high to the stick side. It was his first goal since
December 26, 2007 – also against the Lightning – and the first
goal scored by any Capitals defenseman other than Mike Green in
16 games.

The game was the first between the teams since Ovechkin sparked
a controversy with a premeditated celebration of his 50th goal
in a 5-2 win at Tampa Bay on March 19. The league’s reigning
MVP dropped his stick on the ice and pretended it was too hot to
touch, riling the Lightning and touching off a week’s worth of
debates over whether such antics have a place in hockey.

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By the time the rematch came around, both coaches were
downplaying any notion that the last-place Lightning would seek
any revenge in any way other than perhaps trying a little extra
to break their losing streak to first-place Washington. The
Lightning’s frustration played out in 10 penalties that led to
three power-play goals by the Capitals.

There were no blatant cheap shots on the Russian, just lots of
physical hockey.

The game was less than three minutes old when Ovechkin skated
into the offensive zone with the puck and was slashed by Josef
Melichar and then almost immediately tripped by Matt Smaby.
Ovechkin slid backward into the boards, and both Lightning
players were assessed minor penalties. Ovechkin converted the
5-on-3 with a slap shot for the game’s first goal, then
celebrated by thrusting his left hand into the air before he was
mobbed by his teammates.

Ovechkin and Smaby traded hits along the boards later in the
period, but it was David Koci’s decision to jump Matt Bradley
after the whistle that gave the Capitals another power play.
Washington converted when a shot from Ovechkin deflected off
Backstrom’s skate and into the net. A video review upheld the
goal because the Swedish forward did not use a kicking motion.

After St. Louis made the score 2-1, the Capitals got another
power play when Matt Lashoff held Ovechkin during a
mini-breakaway. Backstrom backhanded a rebound during the man
advantage for his second goal of the game and was congratulated
on the spot by his teammates. Tampa Bay’s Noah Welch, seemingly
upset that the Capitals were gathered directly in front of his
team’s goal, tried to break up the celebration.

The Lightning rallied to tie with goals in the second and third
periods, but Pothier’s unlikely score settled the game.