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Tampa Bay Lightning, with a lot of fight, finally beats Washington Capitals, 7-4

Forward Marty St. Louis, right, celebrates his power-play goal in the second, which gives Tampa Bay the lead for good at 5-4. Steven Stamkos, left, picked up an assist on the play to go with his two earlier goals.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Forward Marty St. Louis, right, celebrates his power-play goal in the second, which gives Tampa Bay the lead for good at 5-4. Steven Stamkos, left, picked up an assist on the play to go with his two earlier goals.

TAMPA — Coach Rick Tocchet did about as much as he could with X's and O's to prepare the Lightning for Tuesday night's game with the Southeast-leading Capitals.

But before the team hit the ice, he gave them one more tidbit:

A quote from Washington defenseman Tom Poti, who told the Washington Post they wanted to "bury" the rest of the Southeast so teams below them could not mount a playoff charge.

"I might have mentioned it," Tocchet said, "King of the Hill type stuff."

"We talked about it before the game," defenseman Kurtis Foster said. "We didn't like it that much."

The response: a 7-4 Lightning victory at the St. Pete Times Forum that ended Washington's 12-game winning streak against Tampa Bay and may have set a nasty precedent for their next meeting, Jan. 31 in Washington.

Steve Downie hit Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin with a punch in the third period. And though Downie declined comment, center Jeff Halpern said Ovechkin's hit that started the fracas was "dirty."

Ovechkin and Downie later squared off again only to have Matt Bradley leave the Capitals bench and jump in. Two minutes later, Tampa Bay's Zenon Konopka obliterated David Steckel in a fight.

All that after Brooks Laich, 9:12 into the first period, ran over goalie Mike Smith, who took himself out 6:36 into the second with a neck sprain. The team said he is day to day.

There was no retaliation from the Lightning because, as Steven Stamkos said, "I don't think (Laich) did it purposefully," and as Halpern said, "We don't have a 20-point cushion in the standings to take liberties."

"You put it in your memory bank and you play hard," Tocchet said.

The Lightning (18-17-10) did just that, scoring four first-period goals — a season mark for a period — to take a 4-1 lead. Its 36 shots were four more than its previous two games combined, and its four power-play goals were one more than it scored in its previous eight.

Tampa Bay also didn't wilt when the Capitals tied it at 4 in the second. Marty St. Louis' power-play goal with 2:32 left was the winner, and third-period goals by Kurtis Foster and Halpern were insurance, giving the team a season high in goals.

St. Louis also had two assists. Steven Stamkos, also with three points, had two goals to give him a team-best 26. Brandon Bochenski had three assists and goalie Antero Niittymaki played well, stopping 22 of 24 shots.

"The guys did a great job in realizing it wasn't over," Stamkos said.

And Tocchet did a good job setting the stage, including shuffling lines and power play units, notably taking struggling Alex Tanguay mostly out of the power-play mix.

"It was a good win for us," Tocchet said. "I don't think we're going to be pounding our chest or anything like that, but it's a nice step."

And an interesting one in a new rivalry.

"They've been frustrated for a lot of games now, and every time we play them, it's mounting and mounting," Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier said. "It's going to come to a head eventually."

"It sets the tone for next game," Konopka said. "They're going to stick up for their guys. We're going to stick up for ours. It's good hockey. This is why you play, for the intensity of the game. It was great."

at Lightning 4 1 2 7
Capitals 1 3 0 4

First1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 11 (Tanguay), 6:34. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 24 (Bochenski, Foster), 12:03 (pp). 3, Washington, Semin 19 (Fleischmann, Schultz), 14:05. 4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 25 (Bochenski, St. Louis), 17:28 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Veilleux 2, 18:35. PenaltiesLaich, Was (goaltender interference), 10:39; Poti, Was (cross-checking), 15:44.

Second6, Washington, Green 11 (Semin, Ovechkin), 1:34 (pp). 7, Washington, Fehr 11 (Morrison, Chimera), 7:44. 8, Washington, Green 12 (Backstrom, Ovechkin), 12:08 (pp). 9, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 12 (Stamkos, Bochenski), 17:28 (pp). PenaltiesDownie, TB (slashing), :34; Hedman, TB (holding), 11:03; Laich, Was (tripping), 16:13; Chimera, Was (hooking), 20:00.

Third10, Tampa Bay, Foster 7 (Hedman, St. Louis), 4:00. 11, Tampa Bay, Halpern 8 (Lecavalier, Tanguay), 9:54 (pp). PenaltiesBackstrom, Was (cross-checking), 5:17; Backstrom, Was (boarding), 8:12; Ovechkin, Was (roughing), 11:51; Downie, TB (roughing), 11:51; Bradley, Was, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting, objects on ice), 14:00; Ovechkin, Was (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:00; Downie, TB, minor-major-misconduct (hooking, fighting), 14:00; Steckel, Was, major (fighting), 16:17; Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 16:17; Meszaros, TB (hooking), 16:50; Ohlund, TB (high-sticking), 18:26; Ovechkin, Was (slashing), 19:23. ShotsWashington 7-16-13—36. Tampa Bay 15-5-16—36. Power playsWashington 2 of 4; Tampa Bay 4 of 7. GoaliesWashington, Neuvirth (15 shots-11 saves), Theodore 10-7-4 (0:00 second, 21-18). Tampa Bay, Smith (12-10), Niittymaki 8-6-4 (6:36 second, 24-22). A13,891 (19,758). T2:39. Referees—Marc Joannette, Francois St. Laurent. LinesmenSteve Miller, Mark Shewchyk.

Tampa Bay Lightning, with a lot of fight, finally beats Washington Capitals, 7-4 01/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 12:49am]
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