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Washington Capitals defeat Arizona Coyotes for fourth straight win

By Harvey Valentine, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 23, 2016 at 12:40 AM
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WASHINGTON -- The way things had been going for Washington center Mike Richards, he wasn't taking anything for granted after scoring his first goal as a member of the Capitals Monday night.

Richards and left winger Alex Ovechkin scored third-period goals 26 seconds apart, and the Capitals defeated the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 Monday night for their fourth straight win.

After Ovechkin broke a 1-1 tie at 8:17 of the third, Richards scored his first goal in his 15th game at 8:43. Right winger Tom Wilson shot on Arizona rookie goalie Louis Domingue, then poked the puck free as the goalie attempted to cover it up, and Richards banged the loose puck home.

"I actually thought the goalie had it and the puck just popped out and somehow ended up on my stick," Richards said.

Domingue then slammed his stick on the crossbar as a scrum broke out behind the net. The play withstood a coach's challenge.

"I just figured with my luck it'd be disallowed," said Richards, who received a standing ovation from the Verizon Center crowd. "The ovation obviously was nice. It was nice to celebrate with my teammates. They've been supportive and it's been awhile since I scored a goal of any importance."

Domingue wasn't feeling any better about the play after the game.

"I'm expecting that they treat every guy the same way," Domingue said when asked if he was expecting the referee to whistle the puck dead. "I feel like because I don't have many games in this league I'm being treated differently. And I think that if (Washington goalie Braden) Holtby would have covered the puck this way they would have blew the whistle right away."

Arizona head coach Dave Tippett said: "It's a play you've got to stay with it all the way through. You can hope the referee blows the whistle, but you've got to play it right 'til you hear the whistle."

Richards, 31, saw his Los Angeles Kings' contract terminated last summer due to a combination of limited production and an arrest at the Canadian border for possession of a controlled substance. Signed by the Capitals in January, he was scoreless in his first 14 games.

"A lot of us know what it's like coming to a new team and trying to fit in, trying to impress everybody," said right winger Justin Williams, a teammate of Richards in Los Angeles.

"He's been doing that, but hasn't quite gotten on the scoresheet. I know that drags on him. Hopefully this'll springboard him to a lot more."

Ovechkin's go-ahead goal, a wrister from the left circle that beat Domingue to the short side, was the 39th of the season and 10th in the past eight games for the NHL goal-scoring leader, who added an assist.

Defenseman Connor Murphy pulled Arizona within 3-2 when he beat Holtby at 9:43, but the Coyotes couldn't get the equalizer and dropped the opener of a five-game East Coast swing.

"If we expect to get points, which we have to on this trip, you've got to play flawless hockey," Tippett said. "We made a couple mistakes that cost us tonight."

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov notched his 18th goal of the season and an assist for Washington (44-10-4), which has won nine of 10 overall and is 17-1-1 in its last 19 home games.

Holtby had 25 saves.

Domingue stopped 31 shots, and defenseman Kevin Connauton scored the other goal for Arizona, which has lost four straight road games.

With 60 points, the Coyotes began play five shy of the Nashville Predators for the second Western Conference wild-card berth.

Arizona scored 16 goals in its previous three games, but couldn't beat Holtby in the scoreless first period despite a total of five minutes with the man-advantage.

The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead at 3:25 of the second period when Connauton, the trailer on a three-on-two break, beat Holtby high on his glove side from the slot.

An Arizona penalty about a minute later swung the momentum.

With center Martin Hanzal off for slashing, Domingue got a piece of Kuznetsov's shot from the right circle, but the puck deflected off his arm and trickled in.

NOTES: Arizona D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who left Saturday's loss to the Blues with a lower-body injury, was back in the lineup. ... The Coyotes scratched C Tyler Gaudet and D Klas Dahlbeck. ... Capitals C Marcus Johansson (illness) was scratched, and C Mike Richards replaced him on the third line. D Taylor Chorney was also a scratch. ... Washington came in with 90 points, the most through the first 57 games since Philadelphia had 91 points in 1979-80. ... With the NHL trade deadline one week away, scouts from the Bruins, Blackhawks, Stars, Canadiens, Senators, Flyers and Sharks were listed on the Verizon Center press box seating chart.

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