Capitals post 10th straight win over Lightning

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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.

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.



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