WASHINGTON — Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jason Arnott has adjusted so quickly to playing for the Washington Capitals.
After all, the veteran centre certainly knows a thing or two about being thrust into new surroundings.
Arnott scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:19 left, and the Capitals beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on Thursday night for their third straight victory.
Playing in his second game since being acquired in a trade with New Jersey, Arnott took a pass from Alexander Semin and beat goalie Ty Conklin with a slapshot from the left circle.
“It’s just an experienced move,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He was already in a shooting position.”
The 36-year-old Arnott got an assist on the tying goal against the New York Islanders in his Washington debut Tuesday night.
The Capitals are the fifth team that Arnott has played for over a 17-year career, and it didn’t take long for him to blend in with his new teammates.
“He’s been around this league for a long time,” Boudreau said. “He’s being used in a different situation than he was for most of the year, so I think he’s excited about playing.”
Arnott was seeing less and less ice time with the Devils before being traded to the Capitals, where he has become an instant sensation on the offensive end — for now.
“Yeah, there’s times where you’ve got to grind it out and just play solid D and there’s going to be games or shifts where you don’t get offensive opportunities,” Arnott said.
Until then, Arnott will be happy to provide the Capitals with much-needed scoring punch.
“We’re talking a lot on the bench,” Arnott said. “If we keep that up, hopefully our chemistry will keep going.”
Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth stopped 25 shots to set a franchise record for wins by a rookie with 21. The 22-year-old topped Bob Mason, who won 20 in 1986-87.
Alex Ovechkin had two assists for the Capitals, who have won two in a row at home for the first time since Nov. 26-28. They’re also riding their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 26-Jan. 1, and now are within one point of first-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.
“We can see the guys above us now,” Boudreau said.
Alexander Steen and B.J. Crombeen scored for the Blues, who were coming off two straight shutout losses to Calgary. St. Louis has dropped six of seven.
“We played much better tonight, but it obviously doesn’t mean much when you don’t get two points,” said Crombeen, who applauded the Capitals for adding Arnott.
“He’s a high-end player, and any time you can add someone like that to the lineup it makes you a better team,” Crombeen said.
Washington trailed 1-0 until Scott Hannan scored at 3:05 of the second period on a slap shot from the right circle. It was the defenceman’s first goal since Nov. 23, 2009 — a span of 118 games.
The tie lasted just over two minutes. Crombeen gained possession of the puck off a faceoff in the Washington end, skated up the right side and whipped a shot past Neuvirth for a 2-1 lead.
It didn’t take long for Washington to pull even again. Mike Knuble’s pass from the left circle was deflected into the air to Niklas Backstrom, who took a hack at it around his waist with a baseball swing. The puck one-hopped into the net past the stunned Conklin at 6:48.
Despite outshooting the Blues 10-6, Washington was held scoreless in the first period for a sixth consecutive game.
Steen put St. Louis up 1-0 at 11:25 of the period, scoring off a fine cross-ice pass from Chris Stewart. The goal ended the Blues’ scoreless run at 133 minutes, 32 seconds — dating to the third period of a Feb. 25 win over Edmonton.
The lead wouldn’t last.
“We need to find a way to win games,” Blues forward David Backes said. “There’s no question that’s a good team, but if we plan on being a good team we need to find ways to play with the best.”
NOTES: Washington has an NHL-low 38 first-period goals. … Crombeen’s goal ended his 13-game run without a point. … The Capitals recalled G Braden Holtby from Hershey of the AHL and assigned G Todd Ford to Hershey. … The Capitals swept the season series 2-0. The Blues’ last win in Washington was on Jan. 28, 2003. … Steen’s goal was only his third in 21 games. … Ovechkin has at least one point in seven of his last eight games.