WASHINGTON - Instead of celebrating another home victory, Alex Ovechkin bowed his head and sat silently on a table outside the Tampa Bay Lightning dressing room.
After scoring a goal and adding two assists to help the Washington Capitals beat Tampa Bay 7-4 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory, Ovechkin was worried about a former teammate who was injured on the Russian star's hard check.
Tampa Bay defenceman Jamie Heward, a Capital from 2005-07, left the ice on a stretcher with 13:15 remaining after being checked hard into the glass by Ovechkin. Heward was turning in the left corner when Ovechkin, leading with his shoulder and forearm, sent him tumbling.
Clad only in a towel, Ovechkin waited in the hallway for an update on Heward, who sustained a concussion and was taken to Sibley Memorial Hospital, where he was to be held overnight for further evaluation.
"I didn't know what to think," Ovechkin said. "I saw him and he turned around and .. I didn't mean to hit him. Sure, you're concerned. I want to know how he is."
Heward was face-down and motionless on the ice for about four minutes before being carefully rolled onto a backboard by paramedics and doctors. Ovechkin, worry etched on a face used to jubilant celebrations, waited in front of the Capitals bench before skating over to check on Heward.
"It was an accident and I'm very sorry," Ovechkin said. "I never want to hurt somebody, especially my old teammate. It's hard and I'm very sorry, but it's a game and it's a moment. He turns and I have speed. .. I hope he is OK."
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet didn't think Ovechkin's hit was premeditated or dirty, but left open the possibility that it could have drawn a penalty, considering the NHL's crackdown on blows to the head.
Ovechkin has stepped up his physical game this season, leaving more than one opponent rattled by a bone-jarring check. Tocchet, whose team was already short a defenceman because of injuries to Lukas Krajicek and Paul Ranger, thought Ovechkin left his feet before making contact.
"I was more concerned that (Heward's) arms and legs were moving so we could tell his wife," Tocchet said, adding that Heward was unconscious for about 90 seconds. "I felt sick for her, sitting at home and watching the game and seeing her husband on the ice. .. It made us feel a little bit better - temporary relief."
Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and Mike Green had a goal and an assist each, Sean Collins scored his first NHL goal, and David Steckel and Chris Clark added goals for Washington. The Capitals improved to 16-1-1 at home with their straight victory over the Lightning.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice for Tampa Bay, 4-0-1 in its previous five games. Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi added goals.
Collins swept a wrist shot from the right point that dribbled through Mike Smith's pads 3:58 into the game. About three minutes later, Steckel got a step on defenceman Andrej Meszaros and deflected Bradley's cross-rink pass at the left post, making it 2-0.
The Capitals then took advantage when the Lightning defence collapsed along the left wing, trying to pen Ovechkin along the boards. Ovechkin deftly slid a pass to Green, who scored his ninth goal from the right circle at 18:29.
"I thought we had a great first period," Bradley said. "In the second period, we just did not play our game at all. .. We definitely have to address that tomorrow, what happened in the second period. It's nice to get a lead, especially a three-goal lead after the first, but as we showed tonight, we kind of relaxed after the first period and thought it was going to be an easy game."
Lecavalier and Malone scored 1:39 apart early in the second period for Tampa Bay. Lecavalier scored his 15th goal from the left side off a right-wing pass by Vaclav Prospal and Malone, the trailer on a 3-on-2 rush, zipped a wrister from between the circles at 2:37.
But Bradley restored Washington's two-goal lead 11 seconds later, converting a shovel pass from Gordon, who picked off Smith's poor clearing try.
Capitals goalie Brent Johnson gloved Adam Hall's penalty shot attempt midway through the second after Hall had been tripped by Green on a breakaway.
Lecavalier struck again with 16 seconds left in the period. Martin St. Louis rode Collins off the puck behind the net and fed Lecavalier in front.
Gordon capitalized on another wobbly clearing attempt by Smith with 11:53 left in the game, intercepting the puck and scoring before Smith could dive back into the crease.
"Smitty had a tough night," Tocchet said. "He's been good all year with the puck. Once in a while, that happens."
Recchi pulled Tampa Bay within a goal with 7:38 left, but Clark responded with his first goal 25 seconds later. Ovechkin got his team-high 26th with 1:46 left.
Notes: Five of Steckel's 10 career goals have come against the Lightning. .. Tampa Bay didn't score first for the first time in five games. .. Earlier Thursday, the Capitals sent D Tyler Sloan to Hershey of the AHL.