Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) falls to ice after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on March 1, 2015. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo
Alex Ovechkin continues to rack up goals at an amazing pace, but it wasn't enough to get the Washington Capitals some breathing room in their quest for a playoff spot last time out.
Ovechkin and the Capitals look to rebound on Friday night and avoid a seventh consecutive loss to the Dallas Stars as the clubs battle at Verizon Center.
The 29-year-old Ovechkin has scored six goals over his past four games, notching his club's lone tally in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Ovechkin leads the league with 45 goals and became the fifth player in NHL history to record seven or more 45-goal seasons. He joined elite company that includes Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux and Marcel Dionne.
Ovechkin has 13 goals and seven assists over his past 14 games, but Washington was still denied a fourth victory in five games despite Braden Holtby making 28 saves.
"I don't know if they were bounces, or it just seemed the puck was bouncing like crazy and ending up on their stick for the first two periods somehow," Holtby said. "They just kept being persistent. The second one, it's just an unlucky play off the stanchion, and [they] made a great shot."
The Capitals still hold the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with 82 points. Boston holds the other with 80 points and the Florida Panthers are the closest team to the extra playoff spots with 74 points.
Washington also is six points behind the idle third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division, but will have to try and close that gap tonight without defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward Jay Beagle. Orpik did not play against the Rangers due to a lower-body injury, while Beagle sustained an injury to his upper body in the contest.
Blueliner Mike Green also did not play versus New York, but has not been ruled out for this contest.
Washington concludes a five-game homestand on Sunday versus Boston and will be looking to beat Dallas for the first time since an overtime victory on Oct. 25, 2008 on the road.
The Stars extended their series winning streak to six games with a 5-4 victory at home on Jan. 17, with Antoine Roussel and Jamie Benn scoring 16 seconds apart in the third frame. Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Erik Cole added a goal and an assist each, while Kari Lehtonen made 28 saves.
Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were among the goal scorers for the Capitals, who saw Justin Peters allow five goals on 26 shots.
Holtby, though, has started the past 11 games for Washington and is 0-1-0 with a 2.70 goals against average and .882 save percentage in two games (1 start) versus Dallas.
Backstrom, meanwhile, remains one assist shy of passing Michal Pivonka (418) for first place on the Capitals' all-time assists list.
Dallas has won three straight and five of its past six at Washington. The Stars improved to 3-1-0 on a five-game road trip with last night's 5-3 decision over the Carolina Hurricanes, their fourth victory in five games overall.
They still sit seven points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Dallas got a goal and an assist last night from Patrick Eaves, Cody Eakin and Alex Goligoski, while Curtis McKenzie and Jason Demers added goals.
Lehtonen needed to make only 15 saves to get the win in his 500th NHL game.
"It was exciting, especially at the start of the game. You start thinking about your first game and things like that. It was a nice little milestone," Lehtonen said. "But after that it was just another game. You need to battle and stay calm. I was good enough today."
Lehtonen was making a second straight start and is 14-6-2 with a 2.61 GAA, .924 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 lifetime meetings with the Capitals. Jhonas Enroth is 2-0-3 against them with a 2.91 GAA and .916 save percentage.
Dallas defenseman John Klingberg did not play on Thursday night due to an upper-body injury.