ANAHEIM, Calif. – Alex Ovechkin sat at his locker wearing only a towel, staring quizzically at a scoresheet covered in all of those crooked numbers that used to be so familiar to the Washington Capitals.
At least for one crazy night in Orange County, the Caps were an offensive dynamo again—and they needed every goal to hold off the Anaheim Ducks.
Alexander Semin completed his seventh career hat trick by scoring the tying and go-ahead goals in the final minutes, and Washington dramatically rallied to snap its three-game skid with a 7-6 victory over the Ducks on Wednesday night.
“I can’t remember the last time we scored six goals in a game, or seven,” said Ovechkin, who had a highlight-reel goal and an assist. “It was a fun game for us and a fun game to play. All the goals we scored were working-hard goals. It was very good for us.”
After leading the NHL with 318 goals last season, the Capitals have been in a lengthy scoring funk, at least by the lofty standards set by coach Bruce Boudreau’s earlier teams. Washington had scored more than three goals just twice in 21 games during a post-Winter Classic malaise, and the Caps hadn’t scored seven since Oct. 30.
After Washington scored just three goals during its skid, Semin and Ovechkin led a thorough shredding of shaky Ducks backup goalie Curtis McElhinney. The Capitals capped three multigoal periods with three scores in the third, including Semin’s tiebreaker on a slick backhand out of the corner with 1:47 left.
“It could be a game that gets us out of the kind of spell we were in,” said Mike Knuble, who scored early in the third period. “We gave up six goals, so it was really good to score seven and actually win a game the old way, like we were used to winning. The goalies will take the heat for everything that went on, but there was some sloppy play and some lax defence on both sides at times.”
What a way to end a slump—and if they can just remember how to do it again, the Capitals might be back in their expected place among the major Stanley Cup contenders.
“The best thing about the game (is) we fell behind so many times, and we never quit, never quit,” said Boudreau, who castigated his team during a timeout after falling behind 4-2 in the second period on Corey Perry’s short-handed goal. “Sometimes it’s really tough because you get down, but we were very resilient.”
Ryan Getzlaf and Perry had a goal and three assists apiece for the Ducks, whose four-game winning streak ended in their highest-scoring game in a month. The blame seemed to rest mostly on McElhinney, who made 24 saves while filling in for ailing all-star Jonas Hiller.
“A better performance was needed from me, and it wasn’t there,” said McElhinney, the only goalie with NHL experience on Anaheim’s roster. “The one I’m kicking myself for is the game-winning goal. I need to hold my post there and not pull off it.”
Semin tied it with 8:23 left on a rebound goal. The Russian scored 18 goals with three hat tricks in the Capitals’ first 25 games, but hadn’t scored since Nov. 28 while missing 15 games with injuries.
“He’s a very skilled individual and he can make things happen,” said Washington’s Matt Hendricks, who had two assists. “It was nice to see. I know he’s happy about it because he worked hard, he wants to score goals, and he got them.”
Brooks Laich and David Steckel also scored for the Capitals, but they also gave up six goals for the first time since Nov. 26. Michal Neuvirth stopped just nine shots in the final two periods after Semyon Varlamov was pulled.
Bobby Ryan put the Ducks ahead 6-5 early in the third period on a break with Perry and Getzlaf—a goal that Boudreau claimed was offside.
Teemu Selanne scored in his third straight game, Toni Lydman scored his first goal since Oct. 17, and Lubomir Visnovsky also scored for Anaheim, but the Ducks blew a chance to move into first place in the crowded Pacific Division in their only home game during a three-week stretch.
“You score six goals, you should win,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “Defence gives yourselves a chance, and we didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
Getzlaf played his first home game in more than two months after missing 14 games with broken bones in his face, and defenceman FrancoisBeauchemin returned to Anaheim for the first time since the Ducks reacquired the veteran defenceman in a trade last week.
Notes: Ducks D Andy Sutton received only a boarding minor for a questionable hit on Hendricks in the second period. “It was from behind,” Boudreau said. … Anaheim put Hiller on the injured list with a recurrence of the dizziness and fatigue that has plagued him since All-Star weekend. The Ducks recalled prospect Timo Pielmeier from the ECHL to back up McElhinney, but Pielmeier has never played in an NHL game. … Washington played without star D Mike Green, who missed his second straight game with an apparent head injury.