- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

It should have been a time to celebrate for Alex Ovechkin - another victory, another three-point night to push him past Sidney Crosby for second place in the NHL scoring race.

Instead, Ovechkin was subdued after a 7-4 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, shaken after one of his hits injured a friend and former teammate.

The game was delayed for several minutes in the third period when former Caps defenseman Jamie Heward had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. Ovechkin hit Heward along the boards 6:45 into the final period, using his arm to put the defenseman’s head into the glass to the right of the Tampa Bay net. Heward immediately dropped to the ice, motionless.

“I didn’t want to hit him hard - he was turned,” Ovechkin said. “It was accident, and I really sorry. I never hurt somebody and especially my old teammate. It is hard. … He turns, and I have speed - I don’t know. He just turned at the last second.”

Heward was unconscious for 90 seconds but eventually had movement in his arms and legs. He was diagnosed with a concussion and taken to a Sibley Memorial Hospital, which released him Friday. The 37-year-old defenseman was expected to return to Tampa, according to a spokesman for the Lightning. There is no timetable for his return, but the prognosis for his personal health is good.

Related: Follow all breaking Washington Capitals news at the In The Room blog

Tampa Bay general manager Brian Lawton told the St. Petersburg Times a representative from the NHL has informed him that Ovechkin will not face any discipline for the hit.

Ovechkin did score the team’s seventh goal late in the third period, but he was far from his normal gregarious self after the game.

“I would have been shaken up, too,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think it is going to upset him, but once he finds out that Jamie is OK, he’s going to be fine. I don’t think it will change the way he plays.”

Seven different players scored for the Caps, who won for the 10th time in 11 games thanks to a fast start and despite some shaky defensive work. Sean Collins netted his first career goal, Chris Clark had his first in more than 13 months and Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and David Steckel each pitched in with a tally.

“[Ovechkin] and those guys carry the load all the time, so whenever some other guys can contribute it is nice,” Bradley said.

The Caps raced to a 3-0 advantage in the opening period. Collins collected his first NHL goal 3:58 into the contest. Ovechkin fed him a pass at the right point, and the defenseman beat Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith with a soft wrist shot to the far side.

Collins, who was in Hershey this time last year, was the last of four Bears defenseman recalled this season. He has remained with the team, however, while Bryan Helmer and Tyler Sloan have been sent back to the minors.

“It was kind of surreal,” Collins said. “It’s happened in my dreams before. It didn’t really sink in or hit me until later in the game that I had actually scored. It is pretty exciting.”

Tampa Bay rallied with three goals in the second period - two that came as a direct result of misplays by the Caps. After Vincent Lecavalier tapped in an easy one-timer from Vinny Prospal 58 seconds in the period, Ryan Malone made it a 3-2 game at 2:37 after Michael Nylander skated past a cross-rink pass from Ovechkin in the neutral zone.

It didn’t take long for the Caps to respond. Smith played the puck to Marek Malik behind the Tampa Bay net, but he gave it away to Gordon, who slipped a between-the-legs pass to Bradley. He stuffed the puck in the net before Smith could recover, just 11 seconds after the Malone goal.

Collins misplayed the puck behind the Caps’ net, and it led to a tic-tac-toe tally for Lecavalier. Martin St. Louis took the puck from Collins - he said he thought there was going to be an icing call - and sent it to Prospal, who immediately hit Lecavalier for his 16th of the season with 15.9 seconds left in the middle period.

Gordon made it a 5-3 game 22 seconds after the Heward injury. Smith tried to clear the puck from the bottom of the right circle, but Gordon intercepted it and put it into the empty net.

After Mark Recchi cut the lead in half, Clark restored the two-tally advantage 25 seconds later. Clark, who missed 64 games last season with ear and groin injuries, swept a one-timer from Michael Nylander past Smith for his first goal since Nov. 28, 2007.

“I’ve been through it where you think, ‘I’ve lost it; I can no longer play,’ and it preys on your mind,” Boudreau said. “Then you score a goal and you go, ‘Oh man, I can still play.’”

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