Ovechkin returned from a two-game suspension for his knee-on-knee collision with Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason in tremendous fashion as he scored twice and fired seven shots on goal in the Washington Capitals' 3-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.
''The first period I was just trying to get into the game,'' Ovechkin said. ''I understand I didn't play for two games, so I think my teammates did a great job trying to get the puck to me.''
Not lost in the shuffle was the play of Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov, who stopped all 26 shots he faced and earned his second shutout, improving to 12-1-2 this season.
"He's a good goaltender," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said of Varlamov. "I think the world will start to get to know him as the season progresses. He's going to be a special athlete."
Eric Fehr also scored for Capitals, who have won six straight and set a team record with their 12th consecutive victory against the Lightning, who have lost five of six. Washington won 11 in a row against the New York Islanders from March 1998 to March 2000.
''We have a good roll against them,'' Capitals forward Chris Clark said. ''But any game can go any way, so I don't think it shows that much.''
All three of Washington's goals came in the second period. Ovechkin broke a scoreless tie at 7:39, when he took a pass from Alexander Semin and beat Mike Smith from the left circle as the Caps grabbed a 1-0 lead.
Fehr put Washington up by a pair with his eighth goal of the season at 12:32 as he ripped a loose puck in front past Smith off a feed from Tomas Fleischmann. Ovechkin then tallied his second goal of the game -- and 20th of the season -- via the power play with 24.1 seconds left.
''I thought he was a little rusty and he wasn't moving his legs, as most us weren't in the first period,'' Boudreau said of Ovechkin. ''We started moving our legs, we started getting chances to score.''
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet tried to send a message to his star players in the third period, as Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis all received a limited amount of ice time. Tocchet declined to speak with the media after the loss, which was his club's fifth in the last six games.
''We were pretty good in the first. The second and third we just stopped playing and didn't do the things we were talking about,'' Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Meszaros said.
Not only did the Capitals (19-5-6) win their sixth in a row on Monday night, but the victory also gave them sole possession of first place in the League standings with 44 points.
"It's always nice, but I'm hoping it's there at 82 games," Boudreau said.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 WSH
Wrist shot -
2 - 0 WSH
Wrist shot -
3 - 0 WSH
Interference on goalkeeper