COLUMBUS, Ohio – There was a fireworks display after the Washington Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets game.
It was the second one of the evening. And—no surprise—Alex Ovechkin was holding the match.
Ovechkin scored the first and last goals in a four-goal splurge over a span of 6:40 as the Capitals erased a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2 on Saturday night.
Notice to the rest of the NHL: The old Ovechkin is back.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel my shot coming back. They give me the puck and when I have the opportunity, I shoot it.”
There were whispers that maybe the “Great Eight” had lost his scoring touch when he had just eight goals in floundering Washington’s first 29 games. But he’s now had seven in the last eight games, including a six-game points streak in which he has six goals and three assists.
He and his teammates woke up just in time, apparently still tired from beating Buffalo 3-1 at home on Friday night before flying to Columbus.
“We had back-to-back games, so we didn’t have a morning skate,” Ovechkin said. “I think we were also sleepy. It’s a good win and some momentum. We want to keep going.”
The late uprising was nothing new—for either team.
The Capitals have scored 12 third-period goals in their last six games. They have 46 in the final period this season—among the most in the NHL.
“After the second period, we were talking about it,” said Dennis Wideman, who had a goal and an assist in the spurt. “We weren’t working; we were turning pucks over. We were giving them a lot of rush chances. We needed to cut down (on that) in the third and we did a better job.”
Alexander Semin also scored for Washington, which won its third in a row.
Down 2-0, Ovechkin got the Capitals on the board 4:23 into the third. He was denied on a nifty, blind, redirect attempt. But Wideman collected the rebound and passed to Ovechkin for a rocket of a one-timer.
At the 6:48 mark, Washington was cycling the puck when Wideman dropped a pass for Semin, who drilled a sharp shot through traffic to tie it, disappointing a crowd of 18,199 at Nationwide Arena.
Just 28 seconds later, Wideman came on a rush down the right wing and unleashed a shot. Columbus defenceman Aaron Johnson reached back with his stick, the puck ramping off the blade and rising past a surprised Steve Mason.
Ovechkin added the crowning blow with a power-play goal at the 8:57 mark off a tape-to-tape pass from Dmitry Orlov, who had circled the goal cage before tossing the perfect setup.
The goals by Semin and Wideman came with four skaters on the ice for both teams.
“The four-on-four there was our skill,” coach Dale Hunter said. “Alex made a great shot, Wides made a great shot. There were big plays by the people setting them up. We moved the puck around well on the four-on-four and created two goals.”
Tomas Vokoun had 35 saves for the Caps, keeping them in it until the offence awoke.
“It was a nice comeback, obviously,” he said. “We weren’t happy with the game we played for two periods. We came in here and said, ‘We have to be aggressive. We have nothing to lose, now that it’s 2-0.'”
It was yet another heartbreaking, late-game collapse by the Blue Jackets, who got goals from rookie John Moore and Samuel Pahlsson.
They’ve been outscored 52-26 in the final period this year. Before hanging on to a lead for a 4-1 victory at Dallas on Thursday that ended a six-game losing skid, they had failed to win in regulation in eight straight games in which they led after two periods.
Make that nine of 10 now.
“It’s awfully frustrating and it’s really disappointing,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “For 50 minutes of that game, we were picture perfect. A lot of that that you saw tonight was four games in six nights. We looked like a tired hockey club and made a couple of mistakes. And some of their skilled players made some real good plays, too.”
NOTES: The Blue Jackets called up rookie D David Savard from Springfield (AHL)to fill in for Wisniewski. … The Capitals recalled F Cody Eakin from Hershey of the AHL after their game on Friday night. To make room, D Mike Green (right groin) was played on injured reserve. … It was the first time this season that the Capitals won both ends of a back-to-back.