TAMPA, Fla. – Alex Ovechkin was the centre of attention without scoring a goal.
Martin St. Louis scored the go-ahead goal and the Tampa Bay Lightning ended a 12-game losing streak to Washington with a 7-4 victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night.
Ovechkin was accused of a “dirty” play for a hit in the third on Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie, and the pair later dropped their gloves and were set to fight in the Lightning zone with six minutes left to play. Washington’s Matt Bradley skated in front of Ovechkin and fought Downie.
“Downs makes a move, (Ovechkin) sticks his knee out, leaves his knee out there,” Tampa Bay centre Jeff Halpern said of Ovechkin’s hit. “It’s not the cheapest hit in the world, but it’s still a dirty hit. I think it’s a dangerous hit.”
Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said he didn’t see the play, but added that several Lightning players told him that Ovechkin did stick his knee out. Ovechkin served a two-game suspension earlier this season for a kneeing penalty on Nov. 30.
Ovechkin had already talked with reporters before Halpern made his comments. The Washington captain addressed his near fight.
“I dropped my helmet and I dropped my gloves, so I was ready to fight,” Ovechkin said. “Brads jumped in to fight for me. He did a great job.”
Bradley received four penalties, including two minutes for instigating, a fighting major and a game misconduct. Downie got a fighting penalty and a 10-minute misconduct, while Ovechkin received a minor penalty.
The NHL office is expected to review Bradley’s action. He was on the bench when the altercation started, but said he waited until another Washington player returned to the bench before going on the ice.
“I would never leave the bench and just randomly go after the guy,” Bradley said. “We’ve got a guy like that going after our best player. Obviously, we can’t let that happen.”
After blowing a three-goal lead, St. Louis’ 250th career goal put Tampa Bay up 5-4 lead with 2:32 left in the second. The right-winger extended his point streak to 11 games.
Steven Stamkos had a pair of power-play goals as the Lightning took a 4-1 first-period lead. Vincent Lecavalier, Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster and Halpern had the other Lightning goals. St. Louis added two assists.
Washington, which lost to Tampa Bay for the first time since a 5-2 loss on Nov. 16, 2007, got two goals from Mike Green. Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr also scored for the Southeast Division leaders.
Foster and Halpern extended the Lightning advantage to 7-4 in the third.
Lecavalier and Stamkos put the Lightning up 2-0 midway through the first. After Semin scored at 14:05, Tampa Bay went up 4-1 when Stamkos got his 25th goal of the season and Veilleux scored his first goal in 23 games late in the period.
Green had two power-play goals in the second, including one that tied it 4-4 with 7:52 left in the period. Fehr also scored during the second.
Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith was shaken up at 10:39 of the first when Capitals left wing Brooks Laich, who was penalized for interference on the goalkeeper, skated into him and made contact.
Smith remained in the game, but then left seven minutes into the second with a neck strain. Smith, who missed half of last season with post-concussion syndrome, is day to day and will be re-examined on Wednesday.
Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth, who allowed four goals in 15 shots, was pulled after the first period.
NOTES: The Capitals entered out-scoring their opponents 54-25 during the first period this season. … Stamkos had 23 goals during his rookie year last season. … Capitals D John Erskine didn’t play due to an undisclosed upper-body injury.