With 12 minutes 42 seconds gone in the second period of Washington’s 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on Friday night, something rather unusual happened. High in the Capitals’ defensive zone, Karl Alzner had dropped the gloves and was fighting noted pest Steve Downie.

It was Alzner’s first NHL fight and his first since Sept. 22, 2007, when he was playing in the Western Hockey League, according to HockeyFights.com, which lists the defenseman as having fought three times in juniors.

“I just didn’t have much of a choice there,” Alzner said. “He had my stick and I couldn’t really get that free. And I’ve had a couple run-ins with Downie in the past. I know him a little bit from playing with him [at world juniors].

“For the most part it was good,” Alzner added when asked if he thought it was a fair fight. “Just on the way down he gave me that shot that you guys can see on my face. That’s the only thing. But I should have expected that. I should have probably had my hands up against him.”

Given that Alzner isn’t much of a fighter, his bout brought approval from the bench. He said that after he got involved in a few shoving matches with Pittsburgh’s Tyler Kennedy earlier in the week, a few teammates noticed the feistiness and said his first fight might be right around the corner.

“Karly, he’s not known to be a fighter,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “But it’s an emotional game out there and stuff happens on there and you don’t like it, and that’s how it ends up that way.”

Alzner said he was trying to make the right decision at the right team for the Capitals, knowing that a significant part of Downie’s job description is trying to spark his team with physical play and fights when possible.

“I think he got away with quite a bit at the end of the game, which probably should have been stopped. But he’s that guy that likes to play hard,” Alzner said. “I’m not going to let him just run around and do that – regardless if I take the punches, if I’m giving the punches. Someone should do something there. It’s just one of those plays where we’re up 3-0 and maybe it’s a good time. Just go for it.”

More on Capitals vs. Lightning:

Brouwer scores hat trick, Caps hang on

Summary: Capitals 4, Lightning 3

Insider: More on Brouwer’s hat trick

NHL standings