COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A great start, a clutch penalty kill at the end, and Alex Ovechkin in between spelled success for the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin added to his NHL-leading total with two goals Tuesday night, leading the charge in a 5-3 victory that extended the Columbus Blue Jackets’ losing streak to seven in a row.
“I liked our start, then we had a huge penalty kill at the end,” said coach Barry Trotz. “And we had a nice power play to pull away and get the fourth goal. Plus, we got some big saves from (Braden Holtby). Now, we’ll get out of here.”
Eric Fehr and Tom Wilson also scored, and Marcus Johansson added an empty-net goal for the Capitals, who solidified their hold on the first wild-card playoff spot in the East before starting a five-game homestand.
But it might have been how the Capitals didn’t step back when the Blue Jackets turned up the heat physically in the second period that spelled the difference.
“The guys did their jobs,” said Ovechkin. “They really stepped up. Now, this is a good time for us to stick together.”
Ovechkin has won the Richard Trophy as the league’s goal- scoring leader the last two years and four times overall. He now has 43.
He opened the scoring with a seeing-eye redirect and, after Columbus had climbed back from a 2-0 deficit to get to 3-2 in the third period, he scored on a rocket of a one-timer from the left dot on the power play to push the lead back to two goals.
“It was like a playoff game,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who along with Jason Chimera had two assists apiece for the Capitals. “It was good that we found a way to win.”
The Blue Jackets cut the advantage to 4-3 on Scott Hartnell’s second goal of the night off a backhanded feed from Nick Foligno. Hartnell also had an assist.
But Holtby, who had 27 saves, made several stellar saves down the stretch, stopping Mark Letestu point blank and making a kick save on Marko Dano.
Johansson was called for a delay of game penalty with 2:17 left, with Columbus pulling goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. But Holtby blocked a shot by Cam Atkinson with 32 seconds left before Johansson got the puck coming out of the box and scored the empty-netter.
“Our offense buried its chances,” said Holtby. “With five goals you should probably win. But it wasn’t a typical hockey game.”
There were 11 penalties including four for fighting, along with several other ugly bits of mayhem.
“There were some big hits early and it seemed like we were at each other’s throats the whole game,” said Hartnell.
All of the jousting helped awaken the Blue Jackets, who fell behind 2-0 on goals by Ovechkin and Fehr and were badly outplayed in the opening period.
“It got us involved,” said coach Todd Richards, whose club is 0-6-1 in its last seven starts. “Our game’s got to get better. We’re trying to build. Individuals have to get better, our team has to get better.”
Holtby stopped Hartnell on a penalty shot midway through the second that preserved the Capitals’ 3-1 lead and might have made the finish even wilder.
With the Capitals hanging on 3-2 in the third, though, Ovechkin did what he does so well.
“That was a huge goal there by Ovie and it kind of won us the game,” Chimera said. “It kind of settled down after that.”
Notes: Bobrovsky made his first appearance in 18 games since sustaining a groin injury on Jan. 21. He had 27 saves. … C Brooks Laich was a healthy scratch for Washington. … Atkinson played in his 200th NHL game for Columbus, while RW Joel Ward saw action in his 500th for the Capitals. … Two players also debuted for the teams: LW Curtis Glencross, a former Blue Jacket, played his first game for Washington after his trade from Calgary. D Justin Falk, acquired from Minnesota, made his first appearance for the Blue Jackets. … Columbus sagged to 12-18-2 at home.
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