Washington Capitals top Colorado Avalanche, move closer to Metro title

By Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange  |  March 30, 2017 at 6:53 AM
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DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche shut down Alex Ovechkin, but the rest of the Washington players stepped up to deliver another big win for the Capitals.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist each, and the streaking Capitals beat Colorado 5-3 on Wednesday night.

John Carlson, Jay Beagle and Lars Eller added goals, and Philipp Grubauer made 32 saves for Washington, which won its sixth in a row despite a subpar performance.

"We didn't play good today. We were up 4-1 for a while, but we didn't do anything then," Johansson said. "They played better at the end and had better chances, but we took advantage of the ones we had."

The Capitals (51-17-8) moved closer to clinching the Metropolitan Division and the Presidents' Trophy, which is awarded to the team finishing with the most points in the league. Washington now has 110 points, five more than idle Metro rival Columbus, and the West-leading Chicago Blackhawks, who won in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

"We're getting chased here, so we've got to bear down," Grubauer said. "There's no room for errors, especially now. With Columbus and Pittsburgh right behind us we have to make sure we keep them far away."

Ovechkin, who had his second hat trick of the season and an assist Tuesday in the overtime win in Minnesota, didn't record a point Wednesday. He remains tied with Alexander Mogilny for second in scoring for Russian-born players in NHL history. Sergei Fedorov is first with 1,179 points, while Ovechkin and Mogilny have 1,032 each.

"It's good for us when everyone contributes, when everyone produces," said Ovechkin, who had 33 goals and 33 assists this season. "I just try to get in my time out there. And play for the team and let the other things come."

Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and an assist, and Mikko Rantanen and Matt Nieto scored goals for Colorado. The Avalanche (20-53-3) have lost seven straight and are now 9-29-1 at home, but they made it close when MacKinnon scored at 4:29 of the third to make it 4-3.

MacKinnon's goal was the highlight of the night for Colorado. He brought the puck into the Washington zone, slid it through defenseman Dmitry Orlov's legs and beat Grubauer with a backhander.

"It was one of my nicer goals," he said. "It felt good, I was pretty happy."

Calvin Pickard, who had 30 saves, came off for an extra skater with 1:49 left and Eller scored 27 seconds later to seal it.

"I didn't like our third at all," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "We gave up five 3-on-2s, a couple of other potential 3-on-2s and that's not how you manage games. I thought Grubie was really good for us."

Carlson got the first goal when he scored on a 3-on-1 rush during a power play just four minutes into the game. It was his ninth of the season.

Rantanen made it 1-1 when he scored his 17th of the season at 11:11 of the first, but the Capitals took over from there. Beagle gave Washington the lead back just 37 seconds after Rantanen's tally, when he tipped in a shot by Kevin Shattenkirk for his 13th goal.

Johansson scored his 23rd goal on the power play when Karl Alzner's shot from the point was deflected by T.J. Oshie and then hit off Johansson at 4:57 of the second period. Kuznetsov made it 4-1 with his 18th goal at 11:03 of the second.

Nieto gave Colorado life with his sixth goal on an odd-man rush at 13:50 of the second to cut the Washington lead to 4-2 heading into the third.

"There were portions of the game where they took it to us and then there were portions of the game where we took it to them," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "We answered back a little bit, pushed back and got a couple goals and made it interesting. Unfortunately, we didn't finish the job 6-on-5."


-- The teams played most of the game with one referee after Ian Walsh was hit on the leg with a puck in the first period.

-- The Avalanche signed 2016 first-round draft pick Tyler Jost to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. He is a forward out of the University of North Dakota.

-- Colorado is 1-for-24 on the power play over its past nine games.

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