RALEIGH, N.C. – Alex Ovechkin charged out of the tunnel for the pre-game skate and immediately whacked a puck into an empty net.
His first goal in nearly three weeks finally came on a play nearly that easy.
Ovechkin scored a goal to end an eight-game drought and added an assist for the Washington Capitals, who held on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Sunday night.
“He finally got a bounce that went in his direction,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Mathieu Perreault and David Steckel also scored for the Capitals, who have won three of four, have earned points in four straight and swept the Hurricanes on their home ice for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
“Our division’s pretty tough, so any game within the division, coming out with two points is huge for us,” Steckel said. “Especially a game after two days off. We wanted to come out and make sure we’re doing the right things and keep kind of the ball we’ve got rolling. I know we lost last game, but it’s indicative of the way we’re playing. If we keep playing like this, good things are going to happen.”
Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen each had a goal and an assist, and Cam Ward made 27 saves for the Hurricanes, who have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.
Ruutu pulled the Hurricanes within one goal 30 seconds into the third period by deflecting in Jay Harrison’s slapshot. But Carolina came up empty on two power plays after that while Semyon Varlamov then stopped the final six shots he faced, finishing with 33 saves to help Washington improve to 4-0 in the season series.
“We just kind of have to execute a little better, get better chances,” Ruutu said. “I don’t think we got enough shots. I don’t think we got any. … We had enough chances to at least tie or win this game.”
Ovechkin, who hadn’t scored since Dec. 6, made a heady play midway through the second that led directly to the go-ahead goal. He took the puck away near centre ice, brought it across the blue-line and around defenceman Jamie McBain before dishing off to Steckel, who beat Ward with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 with 9:34 left.
Then came the end to that goal drought later in the period. Ovechkin hammered a rebound into an open net at 1:58 to make it 3-1, giving him his first multi-point game since Nov. 26 and prevent him from matching a career-worst with a ninth straight game without a goal.
“He’s been working so hard, and not getting bounces,” teammate Mike Green said. “Even that shot, it bounced, and he just had the right hand-eye co-ordination. Maybe in the past, it would have missed or something, and that would have been our luck. But it was big for him to get one today.”
Steckel’s goal came about three minutes after Jokinen tied it at one by catching the Capitals on a line change. He finished off a 2-on-1 break with a snap shot that beat Varlamov.
Perreault put Washington up 1-0 with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the first period when he tapped in Alexander Semin’s no-look centring pass. Perreault left the game for good about five minutes later after a bloody collision in the corner with Tim Gleason. That precipitated a brief fight between the Carolina defenceman and Capitals enforcer Matt Hendricks.
Boudreau said Perreault broke his nose and is day to day. Gleason was given a five-minute charging penalty and was ejected.
“It’s not just the penalty on a call like that, because you lose your No. 1 defending defenceman the rest of the game,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “That really hurt us the most. I thought that’s where the game turned. We liked a lot of the things early, but you saw in the second period, our defence starting to have a harder time getting up the ice because their minutes were starting to get up against some pretty good players. … (Gleason) takes huge minutes against the best, and that makes a big difference in your lineup.”
NOTES: Ruutu’s goal was his 100th in the NHL. … An announced crowd of 10,477 braved a rare 15-centimetre snowfall in the South. … The division rivals don’t meet again until March 11. … Green laid out to block two slapshots by Carolina D Joe Corvo in a 10-second span of the first period.