Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin end dry spells in 4-2 win over Minnesota Wild

By Elliott Smith, The Sports Xchange  |  March 15, 2017 at 6:54 AM
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WASHINGTON -- A great goal scorer like Alex Ovechkin can only be held down for so long before what comes naturally returns to the surface.

Ovechkin erased a 10-game scoreless drought, the longest of his storied career, with a second-period goal as the Washington Capitals ended a four-game skid Tuesday night with an impressive 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild in a showdown between conference leaders.

Those who follow the Capitals have joked over the years about the Ovechkin's proficiency on the power play from the "Ovi spot," or the faceoff circle, but it was that formula that helped Washington's captain end what felt like an interminable dry spell.

Ovechkin didn't get all of the shot after passes from Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson just as the man advantage expired, but he got enough to get it past Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk and light the lamp for the first time since Feb. 19 to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

"I think a lot is made of him not scoring in the last little while, but I'll tell you what, he's playing really good hockey," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "He's skating really well, he's becoming a force again. And when he's becoming a force, then you know those goals are going to come. ... Ovi, he might get 20 in the next 10 games."

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau, who joked Monday that he hoped Ovechkin wouldn't end the drought against his team, said a defensive miscue led to the shooting lane.

"We just made a mistake, and when you make a mistake against Alex, you're going to pay for it," he said.

Ovechkin, who also notched his first even-strength goal in 18 games, was more focused on the Capitals ending their skid against a quality team.

"I don't feel like you have to worry about your personal stats," he said.

Down three goals, Minnesota stormed back in the third. Matt Dumba scored just 37 seconds into the period and the Wild capitalized on a five-on-three opportunity with an Eric Staal goal four minutes later.

"They finally got mad at each other," Boudreau said. "The first two periods, we were so passive, we didn't show any emotion. In the third period, we at least came out with a little bit of emotion."

But Washington sealed the deal at 14:19 of the third period, catching Minnesota in a line change that allowed center Jay Beagle to fire a shot past Dubnyk for his first goal since Feb. 4.

"Those are things that kind of bite you when you're in a little bit of a tough time. Changes like that end up biting you," Dubnyk said. "I'd like to come up with a save on that play, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it."

Dubnyk made 36 saves for Minnesota, which has lost five of its last seven games. Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots to end his three-game losing streak and pick up his 35th win.

The second period was a chippy, penalty-filled 20 minutes with 10 infractions whistled.

However, only the Capitals were able to take advantage, when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 22 seconds after Ryan Suter was sent off for slashing to give Washington a 3-0 lead. It marked the first time in six games the normally high-powered Capitals have scored more than two goals.

"It seems like the mistakes we're making right now are hitting the back of our net," Staal said. "We just need to have a game where we're just tight and difficult to play against because that's kind of been our staple and that's what's made us successful for most of this year.

"We're fighting it. We're playing from behind, and when you do that, it's hard."

The period ended in fisticuffs. Washington's Tom Wilson and Minnesota's Ryan White threw down their gloves. Wilson was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty and 17 minutes of penalties.

Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt opened the scoring in the first period with just his second goal of the season on yet another assist from Backstrom, who reached 50 assists for the fourth straight season thanks to three in the game.

"Things hadn't been going our way in the last couple of games, so for us to get out to an early lead was a point for us to have confidence to play the rest of the game the way we had to," Schmidt said.

NOTES:

-- Minnesota recalled C Tyler Graovac from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. He has seven goals and one assist in 49 games with the Wild this season.

-- Capitals D Kevin Shattenkirk (suspension) and D Taylor Chorney (scratch) were out of the lineup. Wild C Martin Hanzal (illness) and C Jordan Schroeder (scratch) were sidelined.

-- Minnesota concludes its season-long, five-game road trip Thursday at Carolina. Washington hosts Nashville on Thursday.

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