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Stars top Capitals, record-setting Alex Ovechkin

By Harvey Valentine, The Sports Xchange
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Stars top Capitals, record-setting Alex Ovechkin
Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg (3) loses his footing against the Washington Capitals in the first period at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on November 19, 2015. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON -- The Dallas Stars have been so successful during the young season that just when a game appears to be turning against them in the third period they're apt to snatch it back.

Center Jason Spezza scored the go-ahead goal with 8:50 left and the Stars defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Thursday night despite Alex Ovechkin setting an NHL career goal-scoring record for Russian-born players.

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Just over four minutes after Ovechkin tied it, Spezza blocked a clearing pass deep in the Washington zone, controlled the puck and fired past goaltender Philipp Grubauer to break a 2-2 tie with his eighth goal of the season.

"It was an important goal because the building was rocking and those next couple of shifts are big shifts for both teams," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "To get the goal right away kind of quieted the place down."

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Dallas (16-4-0) has won four straight and seven of eight overall. The Stars improved their road record to 9-2.

Ovechkin tied it when he scored his 484th career goal earlier in the period, surpassing Sergei Fedorov for the most NHL goals by a Russian-born player.

Last year, that goal might have been the prelude to a Dallas loss, but several Stars noted they've been a much-improved third-period team.

"We've been in many of these so far this season and we believe we can get it done," Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen (33 saves) said. "We didn't panic."

Centers Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin also scored and defenseman John Klingberg had two assists for Dallas.

"We've got confidence," Klingberg said. "I don't think we played our best game today, but we found a way to win. That's one of our strengths right now."

Dallas took a 2-1 lead at 4:45 of the third period when Klingberg wristed a shot toward the net from the point and Eakin redirected it home.

Less than three minutes later, Ovechkin made history with his ninth goal of the season.

Ovechkin, who in the second period had hit the post, jammed home a pretty backhand feed from center Nicklas Backstrom at 7:01, drawing a standing ovation from a Verizon Center.

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"Obviously, it was loud. They've cheered for me since day one, so it was a great moment," said Ovechkin, whose parents, brother and fiance were in attendance.

The goal ended a frustrating stretch that saw the Washington star go four games without a point and twice have potential record-breaking goals disallowed on goaltender interference calls.

"I thought he played ... we sort of call it Beast Mode where he's playing hard and he's just an absolute beast out there to handle. That's when he's really effective," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

"I knew he was going to score today. You know, when he's in that mode, he's going to score. It was only fitting that it was an assist from (Backstrom)."

Backstrom also had a goal for Washington (12-5-1), which has lost eight straight to Dallas.

Grubauer stopped 28 shots.

Dallas took a 1-0 lead at 9:28 of the first period when Klingberg dropped a pass back to Seguin in the slot and he fired past a screened Grubauer for his 11th goal of the season.

Trotz challenged the goal, saying left winger Patrick Sharp interfered with Grubauer as he set the screen, but after a replay review, the goal was upheld.

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Washington got the equalizer with 2:20 left in the period when defenseman Taylor Chorney's blast from the point caromed off the boards back out in front. Backstrom backhanded the puck, which went across the slot and deflected off defenseman Jordie Benn into the net.

"I'm disappointed in the result," Trotz said, "other than that I thought if we compete at that level and play with good focus, we'll win our share of games."

NOTES: Washington D Brooks Orpik (lower body injury) missed his fourth straight game and RW Stanislav Galiev was a healthy scratch. ... LW Travis Moen and D Jamie Oleksiak were healthy scratches for Dallas. ... C Brooks Laich played his 700th game for the Capitals. ... Stars D Alex Goligoski played his 500th NHL game. ... Capitals D Matt Niskanen was drafted by Dallas in the first round in 2005 and played four seasons with the Stars. ... Dallas C Cody Eakin was a third-round draft pick by Washington in 2009. ... The teams' second and final regular-season meeting is Feb. 13 in Dallas.

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