TAMPA — Lightning C Jeff Halpern did not hold back when talking about Alex Ovechkin's hit on Tampa Bay's Steve Downie that began the third-period fireworks in Tuesday's game.
As Halpern saw it, Ovechkin led with his knee, and Halpern called that dirty.
"Downs makes a move. (Ovechkin) sticks his knee out, leaves his knee out there," Halpern said. "It's not the cheapest hit in the world, but it's still a dirty hit."
Downie, who popped Ovechkin with a right hand in a ruckus that was called roughing, declined to express what he thought other than to say, "I had a good game and we won."
Safe to say, though, he would not have gone after Ovechkin if he believed the hit was clean.
Either way, Downie got big ups from teammates for challenging the league's premier superstar in a game in which the Lightning, which had lost 12 straight to Washington, wanted to make a statement.
"Downs did a good job," D Kurtis Foster said.
Said Halpern: "He did the right thing. … (Ovechkin) goes hard, but you're still responsible for where your knees are."
Coach Rick Tocchet said he did not know if Ovechkin stuck out his knee. But he called the hit "a pretty hard charge." And he complimented Ovechkin because "he was willing to answer the bell."
He was willing later in the period, too, when he and Downie squared off. But Washington's Matt Bradley left the bench to fight Downie.
"I'll bet they would do the exact same thing if someone was squaring off with Stamkos," Bradley said. "You don't let guys like that go after your best players, and he's our best player. No matter who it is, we're not going to let someone like Downie to go after him."
As for Ovechkin, he sounded ready to put it behind him.
"The fight with Downie was nothing," he said. "It was a normal game. It's hockey. I thought (Downie) slashed my stick. I had the puck and went to shoot and there's no stick and there's no call."
POWERLESS PLAY: Before scoring four goals Tuesday, the Lightning was 10-for-78 (12.8 percent) on the power play in its previous 20 games and 3-for-28 (10.7 percent) in its previous eight.
GLITZ & STICKS: The eighth charity event is 6-9 p.m. Jan. 24 at Tampa's Hyatt Regency hotel, 211 N Tampa St. Individual tickets are $150 and include chips for casino-style games. Sponsorships are $1,500, $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000. All proceeds benefit Tampa General Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Lightning Foundation's annual grant program. Call (813) 301-6712.
ODDS AND ENDS: C Blair Jones, with zero points in 12 games since his mid December callup, cleared waivers and was sent to AHL Norfolk. … LW Todd Fedoruk (right knee) is skating well but said he is not ready to play. "I can push my own weight around," he said. "It's pushing other people around that's the thing." … D Matt Smaby (shoulder) and D David Hale were scratched.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.