Tampa Bay Lightning Game 45: versus the Washington Capitals

The Tampa Bay Lightning broke a 12-game losing streak to the Washington Capitals being them 7-4.

This was a very creative game. From both goalies being changed to both teams going 0-5 on the penalty kill to Steve Downie fighting with Alex Ovechkin, this game had a bit of everything. About the only thing lacking was a penalty shot.

The game was wide open. The Lightning scored four goals in the first period, which is a season high for them in that regard. They chased the Caps goalie out of the net, who was replaced between the first and second periods. All seemed good for the Bolts.

And then Mike Smith left the game with what’s being called a sprained neck. He had been plowed into by a Caps player during the first period and while he had started the second period, he wasn’t able to stay in the game for very long. He’s currently listed by the team as being day-to-day.

After Smith left, the team lost direction – and the Caps took advantage of that by scoring three goals. It was a sloppy and not very nice period for Tampa Bay. Antero Niittymaki let in one goal in the first two shots he faced, though he became the goalie of record in the end getting the win. Overall, not a great team effort. But also not surprising since the Lightning’s worst period this season has been the second.

Starting the third period, the game was 5-4. And that’s when things got a little crazy. There was a lot of up and down play, and not much defense to speak of. Mike Green, while leading the offensive charge for the Caps, was on the ice for six of the seven Lightning goals. – one of which was Martin St. Louis’ 250ths career goal.

The highlight of the game was the altercation between Alex Ovechkin and Steve Downie. It started off with a questionable hit that turned into a fight. I call it a fight since there were punches thrown, but the on-ice officials called it "roughing" – though I’ve seen far less than that get called for fighting.

I know of Downie’s reputation, but don’t feel bad for Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s got three inches and 30 lbs. on Downie. And he’s very capable of taking care of himself. Even if his teammates rather he didn’t.

So they both went to the box for their two minutes. When they were on the ice together a shift after they got out of the box, that’s when the craziness began. They tied each other up, and then decided to go – to fight. Both dropped their sticks and gloves, took off their helmets, and were sizing each other up. And yes, this is still Downie vs. Ovechkin.

But then Matt Bradley left the Caps bench and came screaming down the ice to take Downie for Ovechkin before a punch had even been thrown. I guess Mike Lundin was yelling at Downie to let him know that someone was incoming, so Downie wasn’t taken completely unawares. And Ovechkin looked a bit cranky that his fight had been taken away from him, too. Not that Ovechkin did much else on the night.

There was some serious discussion as to whether Bradley’s interference was a "third man in" to a fight or not. But since the fight was not in actual progress, Bradley did not get that call. Instead, he was called for leaving the bench, which could result in fines and a suspension.

The insane stat of the night: Vincent Lecavalier went 13-4 in the faceoff circle – that’s winning 76% of his faceoffs on the night. He also had a very pretty goal that had an even prettier set up by Alex Tanguay. And five missed shots as well.

Some other random stats on the night…. Brandon Bochenski had three assists, and he now has five points in four games. Steven Stamkos’s two goals were both power play goals, and he had six shots on the night – the most of any Lightning player in this game. Martin St. Louis’ slap shot goal was the 250th goal of his career, and he had five shots for the game.

These same two teams play again for an afternoon match 31 January in DC. I plan on attending that game, which will either be very interesting, or very boring. I’ve seen these things go either way.

The next Lightning game is Thursday, 14 January. The Florida Panthers will be visiting the St. Pete Times Forum. Game time is 7:30 pm Eastern.

Capitals vs Lightning coverage [SB Nation]

Japers' Rink [SB Nation Washington Capitals site]

Capitals vs Lightning recap [TSN]

Capitals vs Lightning boxscore [TSN]