By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 27, 2009
After Alex Ovechkin used an unconventional celebration to commemorate his 50th goal of the season last week in the Washington Capitals' 5-2 win at St. Pete Times Forum, members of the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't hesitate to express their displeasure.
Lightning winger Ryan Malone talked about making Ovechkin "pay the right way." Center Jeff Halpern added, "It's up to our team to do something about it." And Coach Rick Tocchet said the matter might have been settled with a "three-hour first period" -- in other words, plenty of fighting -- in his playing days.
But as the two teams prepare to share the ice tonight at Verizon Center in their first meeting since Ovechkin pretended his stick was on fire, no one from either side expects any revenge.
"If somebody wants to hit me, always pleasure," Ovechkin said. "I'm ready. I don't care what's gonna happen. I'm ready. But I don't think it's gonna be some war, fights, hits."
Lightning players and Tocchet echoed Ovechkin's sentiment yesterday, playing down the incident to Tampa area reporters and saying that the only type of redemption they're looking for is their first win of the season against the Capitals. In the game on March 19, the Lightning did not target Ovechkin for retribution.
"I don't think we have his name circled on the board or anything like that," Malone said. "But it's going to be another game and hopefully we can contain him and not let him get those chances like he did against us last time."
Many of Tampa Bay's problems have been highlighted against Washington this season, as the Capitals have won each of the four meetings between the two teams, outscoring the Lightning 21-9 in the series.
Ovechkin's tally wasn't the first Washington milestone against the lowly Lightning, either. On Feb. 14, Mike Green made history in Tampa by scoring in his eighth straight game, setting the record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman. The whole team came off the bench to congratulate him.
Ovechkin's celebration was different, though. The next morning, Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau caught up with Tocchet and the Lightning staff at St. Pete Times Forum to clear the air.
"We've talked to Tampa's coaches. We've said our speech," Boudreau said. "He scored his 50th goal in a 0-0 game. It wasn't 8-0 where he made a mockery. If Tampa scores a couple goals and wants to do a celebration, go for it. We've talked to everybody we can talk [to]. It's a done deal, as far as I'm concerned."
Boudreau added that he simply expects the Lightning to be sparked in search of a win. Tocchet agreed.
"You hope guys going against Washington will say, 'These guys spanked us pretty good, and they've outscored us,' " Tocchet said. "I think they should be ready to play that game. . . . So you're looking for people to react, and we're going to go into that game and give them a good, smart hockey game and play abrasive. But that's the way we want them to play in any game."
Capitals Notes: Boudreau tinkered with his lines for yesterday's practice, moving Sergei Fedorov to the top line and shifting Nicklas Backstrom to the second in an effort to promote more balanced scoring. Defenseman John Erskine was also in a new spot, playing left wing alongside David Steckel and Matt Bradley. "I don't know if [Erskine's] going to play [at forward] tomorrow night, but we like what we saw," Boudreau said. "I was thinking . . . if we had seven [defensemen], he might be a good guy to be up there. He's big, strong, he can handle the puck and he'd like to score. He's one of the guys that could score." . . . Alexander Semin did not practice yesterday and is still suffering from flu-like symptoms. . . . Donald Brashear is expected to miss his eighth game since spraining his knee on March 10 against Nashville.