WASHINGTON — The thing you noticed most about the Verizon Center was the silence.
Lightning defenseman Jamie Heward was motionless on the ice, face down, in a corner of the Tampa Bay zone, and no one, it seemed, said a word.
"You worry about him, no doubt," Lightning wing Marty St. Louis said. "And then you want to fight for him, too."
Tampa Bay fought hard Thursday but lost a sloppy 7-4 decision to the Capitals. The good news: Heward, unconscious for 90 seconds in the third period after Washington's Alex Ovechkin drove his head into the glass, sustained only a concussion.
Coach Rick Tocchet said Heward, carted off on a stretcher after being looked over by trainer Tommy Mulligan, EMTs, Capitals trainer Greg Smith and team doctors Ben Shaffer and Chris Walsh, was moving his limbs.
He stayed the night for observation, with assistant trainer Mike Poirier, at Washington's Sibley Memorial Hospital while the team flew back to Tampa.
"It seems like, hopefully, it's positive," Tocchet said of Heward's condition.
"It was an accident," Ovechkin said, "and I'm very sorry."
The game was one of crazy ups and downs. Tampa Bay (10-17-10) fell behind 3-0 in the first and could not hold down the Southeast leaders, who responded every time it pushed back and won their 10th in 11 games and improved to 16-1-1 at home.
Vinny Lecavalier had two goals. St. Louis had three assists and Vinny Prospal two as their reunited MVP line sparked. Ryan Malone's goal gave him six and 17 points in his past 14 games, and Mark Recchi's goal with 7:38 left cut Tampa Bay's deficit to 5-4.
But goalie Mike Smith, who has been so good, played poorly.
He allowed a bad goal to rookie Sean Collins on a shot from beyond a faceoff circle 3:58 into the game. And his attempted clearing pass 8:07 into the third deflected off Lightning defenseman Steve Eminger to Boyd Gordon, who scored into an empty net for a 5-3 lead.
Adam Hall was stopped on a second-period penalty shot by goalie Brent Johnson, and the defense floundered as it played without Paul Ranger, out with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Still, all that mattered was Heward, who was chasing a puck in a corner of his zone when Ovechkin struck him 6:45 into the third. Heward's former teammate pushed him from behind, and his right elbow seemed to drive Heward's head forward.
"I didn't want to hit him hard," Ovechkin said. "I never want to hurt somebody, especially my old teammate. … He turns, and I have (a head of) speed."
No penalty was called.
"It's a tough one," Tocchet said. "I don't think Ovechkin was intentionally trying to hurt him. We were just asking if he left his feet a little bit."
A Capitals official told Washington reporters he had not heard from NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell and did not expect supplemental discipline.
Tocchet said Heward moved his limbs after he was rolled onto the stretcher. A reassuring phone call was made to his family.
"There was a lull for everyone in the building, too," Tocchet said. Until Heward was taken off the ice. Then fans cheered him.
First Period—1, Washington, Collins 1 (Ovechkin, Morrisonn), 3:58. 2, Washington, Steckel 5 (Bradley, Jurcina), 8:02. 3, Washington, Green 9 (Ovechkin, Backstrom), 18:29. Penalty—Ovechkin, Was (hooking), 11:28.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 15 (Prospal, St. Louis), :58. 5, Tampa Bay, Malone 9 (Halpern), 2:37. 6, Washington, Bradley 4 (B.Gordon), 2:48. 7, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 16 (Prospal, St. Louis), 19:44. Penalties—Hall, TB, major (fighting), 2:07; Clark, Was, major (fighting), 2:07; B.Gordon, Was (hooking), 7:37; Tampa Bay bench, served by Stamkos (too many men), 9:00.
Third Period—8, Washington, B.Gordon 5, 8:07. 9, Tampa Bay, Recchi 9 (St. Louis, Meszaros), 12:22. 10, Washington, Clark 1 (Nylander, Green), 12:47. 11, Washington, Ovechkin 26 (Backstrom), 18:14. Penalties—Smaby, TB (interference), :14; Prospal, TB (hooking), 2:58. Missed Penalty Shot—Hall, TB, 9:59 second. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-11-8—27. Washington 15-14-6—35. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Smith 8-13-9 (35 shots-28 saves). Washington, Johnson 11-5-2 (27-23).