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Welcome home, Brian Pothier

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Brian Pothier spent 14 months trying to save his career from his fourth documented concussion. Sure, he has played three of the team’s past five games — all on the road — but he was welcomed back in grand fashion tonight in his first home game since the injury.

Pothier had the game-winner in a 5-3 victory against a Lightning team that had more fight in it than the previous four Caps wins against them this year, and he got a well-deserved heartly ovation afterwards. It was his first goal since Dec. 27, 2007.

“It has been a while, and I really had to hold back the emotions a bit,” Pothier said after the ovation when his goal was announced. “Just to feel like I was contributing – it has only been a few games and I felt like a spare part sometimes, but to put in such an important goal was pretty special.”

Added Bruce Boudreau: “I was really happy for him. “You just think of the mountain the man had to climb – if you guys knew the days when he came in and couldn’t even focus. He would just be there and bring his kids in and walk around. He practiced for two months I think without getting cleared – he had worked so hard and to see a little bit of success happen to him tonight was really uplifting.”

Here are some other notes from an entertaining night at the Phone Booth:

* There were chants of ‘M-V-P‘ after Alex Ovechkin put home the empty-netter, and it was also well-deserved. Ovechkin hasn’t had a dominant night like that in quite some time. Sure, he had a four-point night (to give him 100 for the season), but he also drew TWO penalties on one play, made a great pass to set up a goal and after Matt Smaby decided to hit him, went over and crushed him into the boards.

Now he’s got to do that against a team that isn’t trotting out an AHL defense, but it is still a nice start as the playoffs near.

* His buddy Nicklas Backstrom also had a big night after also looking like he was coasting a bit for the past month or so. This was Backstrom’s first two-goal game of the season and second of his career.

It is a little ironic that Boudreau actually split them up at even strength, but they still combined for six points on three power-play goals (and Ovechkin added the empty-netter).

* Mike Green had eight shots on goal. He had 10 in the previous game against Toronto. Think someone wants to get to 30? He also had a very nice night — both defensively helping to dissolve a few hairy situations in front of his net and carrying the puck.

* The Caps have outscored Tampa Bay 14-2 in the first period this season, and have now won 10 straight games against the Lightning. Washington has had problems with bottom feeders, namely Atlanta and several teams in the West. Not so much with Tampa Bay.

* Ovechkin’s 5-on-3 goal was the team’s first since Nov. 20 at Los Angeles — a span of 57 games.

* Why does Mike McKenna have such a sour disposition? First, he took a shot at Ovechkin for his goal celebration (seriously — how sweet would it have been to see No. 8 do a spin move in front of McKenna after scoring?). But he must have complained to the officials six times tonight.

Look, at the beginning of this season he was no higher than FIFTH on Tampa Bay’s goalie depth chart (behind Mike Smith, Olie Kolzig, Karri Ramo and Riku Helenius) and now he is getting a chance to start some NHL games. Just saying, maybe he needs to lighten up a little.

* Boudreau is still waiting for Michael Nylander to bump into McKenna. Brooks Laich had a three-point night, but he probably lost a goal he should have had. Multiple replays showed that Nylander did not interfere with McKenna on the play.

* When Jeff Halpern’s goal was disallowed because Evgeny Artyukhin cross-checked John Erskine just before, several sheets of paper came flying out of the Tampa Bay management box into the crowd below them. The Caps fans sitting below them decided to chuck them back into the box, so that was entertaining.

* The Caps are off tomorrow and probably Sunday as well. This is the last chance to take a break before the playoffs start.

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