The commotion following Alex Ovechkin's celebration of his 50th goal appears to have calmed down. For the Washington Capitals, it's back to trying to move up in the Eastern Conference and closer to a second straight Southeast Division title.
Facing Tampa Bay for the first time since Ovechkin's milestone tally, the Capitals will look to extend their dominance over the visiting Lightning on Friday night.
Ovechkin's on-ice theatrics have sparked debate during the season, and he added to that in a 5-2 win in Tampa Bay on March 19. After scoring his 50th early in the game, Ovechkin placed his stick on the ice and pretended he couldn't pick it up because it was too hot to touch.
"I think he's a terrific player. He went down a notch in my books after that," Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet said following the game. "It's not something I like. It's hard for me to accept, to see something like that in our building."
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau erupted at Thursday's practice when asked about possible payback.
"There should be no retribution at all. He scored his 50th goal in a 0-0 game. It wasn't 8-0 where he made a mockery," Boudreau said. "If Tampa scores a couple of goals and wants to do a celebration, go for it. It's a done deal as far as I'm concerned, and that's it."
Tocchet responded by saying the best payback is to top the Capitals with their play on the ice.
"Sure, you like to see players react, but reacting is beating Washington and playing abrasive," he said. "It's not being stupid."
The Capitals, however, will seek their 10th consecutive win over Tampa Bay and fifth in a row in Washington. Ovechkin has played an important part in that streak recently.
He scored in his fifth straight meeting against the Lightning last week, giving him six goals and five assists in those contests. Ovechkin has 18 goals and 36 points in 28 career matchups versus Tampa Bay.
Washington (45-23-7) enters Friday tied with New Jersey for second in the East, and holds an eight-point lead over second-place Carolina in the Southeast.
Ovechkin has a league-leading 51 goals and is tied for second with 96 points, but couldn't help Washington on Tuesday in Toronto with his shootout miss sealing a 3-2 defeat.
The Capitals concluded their season high-tying five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record, and return to the Verizon Center for the first of four straight to close out their home schedule.
However, they haven't experienced much success there lately - after beginning the season 23-4-1, Washington is 3-5-1 since Feb. 20.
Still, they will face a Lightning team is 3-0-2 in its last five road games, but has lost four of its last five overall with three defeats coming beyond regulation.
The Lightning (24-33-17) tied Montreal with a pair of third-period goals on Thursday, but couldn't stop Saku Koivu's rebound shot 1:45 into overtime in a 3-2 road defeat.
Martin St. Louis, who tried to stop Koivu's initial attempt with his left palm, had his nine-game points streak snapped. A career-best six-game run for rookie No. 1 overall draft pick Steven Stamkos also ended.
St. Louis has two goals and seven assists during a six-game streak in Washington.
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