Game 39 Review: Caps Handle Lightning 7-4

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, January 01, 2009 | , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals scored early and often, getting goals from seven different players, and handed the Tampa Bay Lightning a 7-4 defeat before a capacity New Year's Day crowd at the Verizon Center. It was Washington's fifth straight victory and 12th out of 14 games.

The game was not without incident, however, as play was delayed several minutes with 13:15 left after Lightning defenseman Jamie Heward was checked awkwardly into the boards by Alex Ovechkin, hitting his head and neck.

Heward was face-down and motionless while doctors attended to him, and he was eventually rolled onto a backboard and taken from the rink on a stretcher. He was taken to the hospital because of a concussion, but his eyes were open as he was leaving the arena.

Heward, who played with the Capitals from 2005 to 2007, sustained a major injury while with the Caps, as his face was sliced open with a skate. Many of the Caps, including Ovechkin and Matt Bradley, skated over to check on their former teammate.

As for the game, the Caps got balanced scoring and just enough saves from goalie Brent Johnson in a chippy, sloppy game. Johnson's biggest save was on a penalty shot by Adam Hall midway through the second period while the score was 4-2.

Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith, however, was particularly sloppy, directly costing his squad several goals.

Washington took a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals from Sean Collins, his first NHL goal, Dave Steckel and Mike Green. Collins' goal was a wrist shot from the point that trickled through Smith's pads. It would not be Smith's last mistake of the game.

After Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone cut the lead to 3-2 in the beginning of the second period, Matt Bradley answered 11 seconds later when Boyd Gordon intercepted Smith's pass attempt behind the net and slipped the puck between his legs to a wide open Bradley in the slot, who dumped it into a wide open net to extended the lead to two.

Lecavalier scored his second of the game with 16 seconds remaining in the period, though, making the score 4-3 and setting up a wild third period.

Gordon pushed the lead to two as Smith inexplicably left the net and misplayed the puck again, trying to pass out of the zone, instead putting the puck right onto Gordon's tape, who buried it as Smith dove head-first trying to get back into the net.

Mark Recchi responded at 12:22 of the period to get the Lightning back within reach, but Chris Clark netted his first of the season just 25 seconds later. It seemed like the Caps could just turn it back on whenever Tampa Bay would score.

Alex Ovechkin would put the icing on the cake, as he used defenseman Steve Eminger as a screen and whipped a wrist shot past Smith to cap the scoring late in the third period. Ovechkin had two helpers as well.

Washington has a day off tomorrow before hosting the New York Rangers Saturday night at 7:00 PM from Verizon Center.

Photo by Getty Images.

WAS: Collins (1) from Ovechkin and Morrisonn (1-3:58); Steckel (5) from Bradley and Jurcina (1-8:02); Green (9) from Ovechkin and Backstrom (1-18:29); Bradley (4) from Gordon (2-2:48); Gordon (5) unassisted (3-8:07); Clark (1) from Nylander and Green (3-12:47); Ovechkin (26) from Backstrom (3-18:14)

TBY: Lecavalier (15) from Prospal and St. Louis (2-0:58); Malone (9) from Halpern (2-2:37); Lecavalier (16) from Prospal and St Louis (2-19:44); Recchi (9) from St. Louis and Meszaros (3-12:22)

1. M. Bradley - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2. C. Clark - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. V. Lecavalier - TB (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)

All 11 goals on the evening were at full strength.

Bradley, Gordon, and Green all had a goal and assist. Niklas Backstrom had two assists. Martin St. Louis had three assists for Tampa Bay.

Washington out shot Tampa Bay 35-26.