WASHINGTON (AP) — Mike Richards found himself in the middle of another controversy on Monday night.
This time, it was on the ice.
Richards scored a disputed game-winning goal, his first in more than a year, and the Washington Capitals held on for a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
“I just figured with my luck it would be disallowed,” said Richards, who joined the Capitals in January after legal troubles interrupted his career last summer. “It’s been a while since I’ve scored a goal of any importance.”
Alex Ovechkin’s NHL-best 39th goal put Washington ahead 2-1 with 11:43 to play. Richards scored 26 seconds later, helping the league-leading Capitals to their fourth straight win and ninth in 10 games overall.
As Louis Domingue pressed his glove to the ice to try and cover the puck, Washington’s Tom Wilson dove and poked it away. Richards rifled it in from just outside the crease.
“I actually thought the goalie had it,” Richards said. “And the puck just popped out and somehow ended up on the stick.”
Domingue was incensed, slamming his stick on the crossbar as a scrum broke out against the boards. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett challenged the goal, but it stood. Arizona’s Connor Murphy scored a minute later to make Richards’ goal the game-winner.
Afterward, Domingue suggested his counterpart, Washington’s Braden Holtby, would have received the benefit of the doubt.
“I feel like because I don’t have many games in this league, I’m being treated differently.” the 23-year-old Domingue after his 28th career start. “And I think that if Holtby would’ve covered the puck this way they would’ve blew the whistle right away.”
Richards, a two-time All-Star, was arrested in June at the North Dakota-Canadian border for possession of a controlled substance. His contract with the Los Angeles Kings was terminated before he reached a settlement with the team in mid-October.
After 15 games with Washington, his first goal since last January was greeted with a raucous roar from the crowd at the Verizon Center.
“I think they recognize what Richie has done in this league,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s come to us and he’s playing with that same sort of fire and that same sort of game that he’s known for. We’re happy he’s with us, that’s for sure.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov also had a goal and an assist, and Holtby made 25 stops for his league-leading 38th win in the second game of a four-game homestand.
Kevin Connauton scored his third goal in four games for Arizona, which began a five-game East Coast road trip with its second consecutive loss.
The Coyotes pulled Domingue late and had a 6-on-4 for the final 29.6 seconds after Nicklas Backstrom was whistled for tripping. But they struggled while going 0 for 6 on the power play for the night.
“You’ve got to find a way to win games,” Tippett said.
NOTES: Coyotes D Oliver Ekman-Larsson returned after missing most of Saturday’s loss to St. Louis with a lower-body injury. … Capitals LW Marcus Johansson was scratched because of an illness, missing his eighth game of the season. … Trotz started his third line of Richards, LW Jason Chimera, RW Tom Wilson, and Ds Dmitry Orlov and Brooks Orpik. . Orpik’s next NHL game will be the 800th of his career. … Arizona hosts Washington on April 2 to close the two-game season series.
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