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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith bemoans lack of punishment for Capitals' Alex Ovechkin for hit on defenseman Jamie Heward

TAMPA — Lightning G Mike Smith had one of the best vantages of the hit that knocked D Jamie Heward unconscious.

"Oh, yeah," said Smith, in net Thursday, when Capitals star Alex Ovechkin pushed Heward from behind and forced his head forward with his right elbow into the corner boards of the Tampa Bay zone at Verizon Center.

"A guy lays motionless on the ice, it's scary as a player and a teammate. I thought we were trying to eliminate hits to the head," Smith said.

That is why Smith said he wanted Ovechkin punished some way by the NHL, which recently sent teams a memo promising more discipline for head shots.

The league, though, ruled Ovechkin's hit was not "targeted" and Heward contributed to the head-to-elbow contact by crouching as he went for the puck.

"Even though (Heward) kind of put himself in a vulnerable position and kind of went into the boards weird, you still have to be liable for your actions," Smith said. "I feel (Ovechkin) really didn't let up at all."

Smith understands the fine line. "(Ovechkin) plays hard, and it's a fast game. But we're trying to eliminate hits like that to the head. It can cause serious damage to the person and, obviously, end careers. I don't think he meant to do it. But when a player is in that position, guys have to know they're vulnerable."

Powerless play: Tampa Bay's power play, 0-for-3 Saturday, is on a 5-for-59 streak, and coach Rick Tocchet called it "God awful. The frustrating part as a coach is seeing the guys we have without scoring and not getting chances to contribute."

On a 4-for-42 home streak, he said, "It's killing us."

Tocchet hopes the spark is the reunited MVP line of C Vinny Lecavalier, Vinny Prospal and Marty St. Louis.

"If that line is not going to be good for us, we can't win," Tocchet said. "I hate to put pressure on those guys, but we need them to score every night or generate every night."

Young blood: D Ty Wishart, called up from AHL Norfolk, made his NHL debut Saturday. Fellow blue-liner Matt Smaby played his 20th game and Vladimir Mihalik his fourth.

How did the Lightning deal with the inexperience?

"You can't change your system," Tocchet said. "When you have younger guys coming in, they get nervous and try to retreat. We don't want them to retreat. We want to have gap-control play the same way they do (in Norfolk). We don't want them to change their game because they're up here."

Odds and ends: C Steven Stamkos played 9:50 with zero shots, zero hits. … An MRI revealed Norfolk W Jason Ward has a right knee sprain. … Tocchet said LW Gary Roberts (elbow) is still two or three weeks from returning. … LW David Koci (hand) is skating with the team. … D Paul Ranger (upper body), D Lukas Krajicek (fingers) and F Jussi Jokinen (lower body) were scratched. … G Karri Ramo is expected to play today.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith bemoans lack of punishment for Capitals' Alex Ovechkin for hit on defenseman Jamie Heward 01/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 12:48am]
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