WASHINGTON (AP) -The celebration worth remembering wasn't anything that happened after either of Alex Ovechkin's goals. It was the standing ovation from the Verizon Center crowd when Brian Pothier's name was announced after his tiebreaking score.
Playing his fourth game after a 14-month layoff because of a concussion that put his career in jeopardy, Pothier scored with 15:30 remaining in the Washington Capitals' 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.
"You just think of the mountain the man had to climb," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If you guys knew the days he came in - he couldn't even focus, and he just sat there and he'd bring his kids in and he'd walked around and he'd leave. He practiced for two straight months without getting cleared, and he worked so hard, and to see a little bit of success happen to him tonight was really uplifting."
Pothier had the fourth concussion of his career when he was checked into the boards by Boston's Milan Lucic on Jan. 3, 2008. The 31-year-old defenseman had headaches and dizziness for nearly a year, and he was making little progress toward a return until a specialist fitted him with glasses that helped fix his vision problems. He made his NHL return March 16 and continues to do daily eye exercises.
The goal was his first since Dec. 27, 2007.
"It's been awhile and really feels good," Pothier said. "I had to hold back the emotion a little bit, but I feel like I'm contributing. To put one in and an important goal was pretty special."
Ovechkin scored his 52nd and 53rd goals and added two assists for the Capitals, who blew a 3-1 first-period lead before holding on to beat the Lightning for the 10th straight time. Ovechkin reached 100 points for the season with his second goal, an empty-netter with 7 seconds to play
The game was the first between the teams since Ovechkin's premeditated celebration of his 50th goal in a 5-2 win at Tampa Bay on March 19. Ovechkin dropped his stick on the ice and pretended it was too hot to touch, riling the Lightning and touching off a week's worth of debates over whether such antics have a place in hockey.
The Lightning didn't go out of the way to seek retribution, although Ovechkin did draw several penalties and traded a few shots with defenseman Matt Smaby.
"It was a regular game," Ovechkin said. "Regular hits."
At Buffalo, N.Y., Paul Gaustad scored midway through the third period to help Buffalo avoid a meltdown, and Ryan Miller stopped 33 shots - including the first 16 he faced - in his return after missing 13 games because of a sprained left ankle.
Tim Connolly scored twice, Jochen Hecht had a goal an assist, and Daniel Paille also scored for Buffalo. The Sabres are 10th in the Eastern Conference, five points behind eighth-place Montreal entering their game Saturday night in Montreal.
Matt Stajan, Nikolai Kulemin and Boyd Devereaux scored for Toronto.
At Chicago, Brent Seabrook beat Martin Brodeur from the blue line at 3:36 of overtime to give Chicago its third straight victory.
Seabrook also had an assist, and Martin Havlat had a goal and set up Kris Versteeg's power-play score in regulation and Seabrook's winner.
Zach Parise had his 42nd goal of the season, and Paul Martin also scored for the Devils, 0-2-1 in their past three.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 28 shots to help Chicago end a 12-game winless streak against New Jersey. Brodeur finished with 39 saves.
At Anaheim, Calif., Dustin Penner scored twice against his former teammates, Dwayne Roloson made 51 saves, and Edmonton passed Anaheim in the playoff race.
Ending a three-game losing skid and snapping the Ducks' winning streak at five, Edmonton moved into seventh with 81 points in the race for the eight Western Conference playoff spots. Anaheim and Nashville are tied for eighth with 80 points.
Fernando Pisani, Kyle Brodziak and Ales Kotalik also scored for Edmonton.
Ryan Getzlaf led Anaheim with two goals and an assist, and Corey Perry also scored. The Ducks set a regular-season franchise record with 54 shots on goal.
At Detroit, Joey MacDonald made 42 saves for his first NHL shutout, and Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey scored for New York.
New York, which broke a three-game losing streak, has the worst record in the NHL, while Stanley Cup champion Detroit is tied with San Jose for the league lead.
MacDonald, making his 62nd appearance in an NHL career that began with the Red Wings in 2006-07, made 14 saves in the second period and 19 in the third.
At Denver, Jason LaBarbera made 22 saves, and twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin scored to help Vancouver hand Colorado its sixth consecutive loss.
Pavol Demitra and Alexander Edler also scored for Vancouver. The Canucks beat Colorado for the second straight time after losing eight in a row in the series.
T.J. Galiardi scored his first NHL goal for Colorado.
|PPG - Alex Ovechkin (52) ASST: Nicklas Backstrom (59), Brooks Laich (24)|
1 - 0 WSH
|PPG - Nicklas Backstrom (20) ASST: Alex Ovechkin (46), Mike Green (38)|
2 - 0 WSH
|Martin St. Louis (29) ASST: Matt Pettinger (6), Matt Lashoff (6)|
2 - 1 WSH
|PPG - Nicklas Backstrom (21) ASST: Mike Green (39), Alex Ovechkin (47)|
3 - 1 WSH
|Steven Stamkos (19) ASST: Ryan Malone (18), Martin St. Louis (47)|
3 - 2 WSH
|Vinny Prospal (19) ASST: Martin St. Louis (48)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Brian Pothier (1) ASST: Brooks Laich (25), Keith Aucoin (2)|
4 - 3 WSH
|EN - Alex Ovechkin (53) ASST: Brooks Laich (26)|
5 - 3 WSH
|Shaone Morrisonn Tripping against Vincent Lecavalier|
|Matt Smaby Tripping against Alex Ovechkin|
|Josef Melichar Slashing against Eric Fehr|
|David Koci Roughing against Matt Bradley|
|Milan Jurcina Holding against Richard Petiot|
|Matt Lashoff Holding against Nicklas Backstrom|
|Matt Lashoff Holding against Alex Ovechkin|
|Evgeny Artyukhin Interference against Oskar Osala|
|Vincent Lecavalier Holding against Matt Bradley|
|Viktor Kozlov Tripping against Jeff Halpern|
|Viktor Kozlov Hooking against Ryan Malone|
|John Erskine Cross checking against Evgeny Artyukhin|
|Evgeny Artyukhin Cross checking against John Erskine|
|Martin St. Louis Interference against Viktor Kozlov|
|Vinny Prospal Hi-sticking against Mike Green|