Alex Ovechkin scores 40th goal in Washington Capitals' win

By Harvey Valentine, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 27, 2016 at 1:20 AM
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WASHINGTON -- Another Alex Ovechkin milestone and another Washington Capitals win.

It was just another night dramatic, productive night in the Capitals' impressive regular season.

Defenseman Dmitri Orlov scored the go-ahead goal with 5:04 left in the game, and Ovechkin scored his 40th of the season as the Capitals tallied twice in the third period to rally past the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Friday night.

Orlov slid the puck through his own legs to evade a defender in the left circle and then back-handed a shot that may have been tipped before getting past goalie Darcy Kuemper for his seventh goal. The Capitals avoided back-to-back regulation losses for the first time this season.

"That's a tough time of the game for a goal like that," Kuemper said. "You open up just a couple of inches and it finds a hole."

The Capitals (45-11-4) trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but Ovechkin struck at 4:35.

With the Capitals pressing, Kuemper was called for delay of game for knocking the net of its moorings. Less than 30 seconds later, Ovechkin beat him from his usual spot in the left circle with a one-timer off a pass from defenseman Matt Niskanen.

"He never stops impressing us," linemate Nicklas Backstrom said of Ovechkin. "We're happy for him and he's a big key for this team. Hopefully he can keep it going."

It's the eighth time in his career Ovechkin, who added an assist, has reached the 40-goal plateau.

"I say it all the time. Every year it's harder and harder to score goals in this league," Ovechkin said. "Obviously goalies are playing much better, they're faster, their equipment is huge. If you get a 40-goal season you get lucky and you work for it."

Defenseman Brooks Orpik also scored for Washington, and Backstrom had two assists as Washington won for fifth time in six games, despite falling behind early in each game.

"It was almost like watching how not to play, how to play a little bit better and then (how to) play well," Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said of his team's progress over three periods. "Hopefully we learned a little bit there."

Goalie Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots as the Capitals equaled their win total from all of last year.

Center Mikko Koivu and right winger Nino Niederreiter scored for Minnesota (27-25-10), and defenseman Ryan Suter and right winger Jason Pominville had two assists each.

Kuemper had 24 saves for Minnesota, which has lost three straight.

The Wild, losers of 10 straight against the Eastern Conference, began play four points behind Colorado for the final Western Conference playoff spot and led the NHL points leaders with one period remaining.

"We gave them that power-play chance that they needed...and we've got to do a better job and get that save when we need it. Last one, just throw a puck at the net and that's what's happening right now," Wild coach John Torchetti said.

"We can't let it get us down. We've got to keep battling."

Minnesota carried the play early and, aided by three Washington penalties, outshot the Capitals 12-3 in the first period.

"It could have gotten ugly early," Trotz said, "and Holtz didn't allow it and gave us a chance to find ourselves."

Washington nearly escaped unscathed, but with 42 seconds left in the period, the Wild broke through on a power play when a Koivu's wrist shot from above the right circle deflected slightly off defenseman Karl Alzner's stick and between Holtby's pads.

The Capitals tied it 49 seconds into the second period when Orpik's wrister, which was heading wide of the net, deflected off defenseman Marco Scandella's stick and past Kuemper. It was Orpik's career-high third goal of the season.

The Wild regained the lead at 5:05 when a pass from Suter sent Niederreiter in alone on Holtby with defenseman Taylor Chorney close behind. Niederreiter beat Holtby for his 12th of the season, making it 2-1.

NOTES: The Capitals' 44 wins coming in tied them with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most in NHL history through 59 games. ...Washington was without D John Carlson (lower-body injury), C Michael Latta (flu) and newly acquired D Mike Weber (in Buffalo following the birth of his child). ... C Mikko Koivu played his 743rd game with the Wild, tying Nick Schultz for the franchise record. ... LW Zach Parise (upper body injury), D Christian Folin, and G Devan Dubnyk were the Minnesota scratches.

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