WASHINGTON – For more than two periods, the game was about possible retribution for a week-old goal celebration by Alex Ovechkin.

Then, with the score tied in the third, the player whose career was nearly ended by a concussion scored his first goal in the more than a year, an emotional moment that brought the Verizon Center to its feet.

Brian Pothier’s slap shot with 15:30 remaining proved to be the winning goal, and the Washington Capitals maintained their dominance over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night with a 5-3 victory.

Ovechkin scored his 52nd and 53rd goals – and did nothing over-the-top after the puck went in either time – 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. Nicklas Backstrom scored his 20th and 21st goals. Ovechkin reached 100 points for the season with his second goal, an empty-netter with 7 seconds to play.

Martin St. Louis scored his 29th, and Steven Stamkos and Vaclav Prospal added goals for the Lightning.

Pothier’s career was in jeopardy after he was checked into the board by Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic on Jan. 3, 2008. The 31-year-old defenseman had headaches and dizziness for nearly a year, and he wasn’t able to skate until a specialist fitted him with glasses that fixed his vision problems. He made his NHL return on March 16 – defying suggestions from some who suggested he retire – and continues to do daily eye exercises.

Islanders 2, Red Wings 0

DETROIT – Joey MacDonald made 42 saves for his first NHL shutout, and Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey scored goals in the lowly New York Islanders’ 2-0 victory over the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

New York, which broke a three-game losing streak, has the worst record in the NHL, while 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. Marian Hossa, Valtteri Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk all hit posts or crossbars for Detroit.

New York scored both of its goals in the second period.

Nielsen opened the scoring with a short-handed goal 8:41 into the period. After taking a pass from Kyle Okposo, Nielsen cut in off the right wing, made a move and beat Chris Osgood for his seventh goal of the season.

Bailey scored his sixth goal with 4:51 left in the period, putting a rebound into an open net after beating Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg out of the corner.

Osgood finished with 28 saves.

Sabres 5, Maple Leafs 3

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Paul Gaustad scored midway through the third period to help the Buffalo Sabres avoid a second-half meltdown in a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.

Ryan Miller stopped 33 shots, including the first 16 he faced, to earn his 30th win of the season in his first game back after missing 13 because of a sprained left ankle.

Tim Connolly scored twice, Jochen Hecht had a goal an assist and Daniel Paille also scored for a Buffalo team that nearly squandered a 4-0 lead.

The win set up a key Eastern Conference playoff showdown Saturday, when Buffalo travels to face Montreal. With 80 points and eight games left, the Sabres are 10th place in the East, five points behind Montreal, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

Gaustad’s goal was key, scored with 9:04 left, and coming less than 3 minutes after Matt Stajan and Nikolai Kulemin scored 43 seconds apart to cut it to 4-3.

Jochen Hecht set up the goal by driving up the right wing and getting off a hard shot that rookie backup goalie Justin Pogge stopped, but lost the puck underneath his equipment, creating a scramble in the crease.

The puck eventually squirted loose into the slot, where Toronto defender Ian White’s clearing attempt struck Gaustad and caromed into the open net.

Stajan and Boyd Devereaux had a goal and assist each for the 11th-place Maple Leafs, who lost for only the second time in six games (4-2-0) and are all but mathematically eliminated from contention.

Miller had little support on the three goals he allowed – including Kulemin’s which came during a scramble in front and after Miller made a diving stop to foil Alexei Ponikarovsky.


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