ST. LOUIS – The Washington Capitals’ 14-game winning streak is a distant memory headed into the Olympic break.
Even though they still have the NHL’s best record, the two weeks off couldn’t come at a better time for them. David Perron scored the lone goal in the fourth round of the shootout, lifting the St. Louis Blues to a 4-3 victory over the suddenly struggling Capitals. Washington lost a pair of 6-5 games earlier in the week before the loss to the Blues ended a run of five straight games with at least five goals.
“It’s a good time for a rest for our group of guys,” Alex Ovechkin said. “We’ll just reload our weapons and be ready for the second half of the season.”
Chris Mason stopped Alexander Semin, Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Brendan Morrison in the shootout and had 31 saves in regulation and overtime for the Blues, who have won three in a row while attempting to climb into playoff contention in the Western Conference.
Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 42 goals and 89 points, came up empty on eight shots.
“You saw him a couple times there in the third period and overtime wind those jets up,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “Not a very comfortable feeling.
“You don’t do it individually, you do it with all five guys on the ice and then sometimes have to rely on the goaltender as well.”
The Blues’ home record is near the bottom of the NHL at 12-16-5, but they’ve won three in a row and are three points out of a playoff spot.
“Regardless of who it’s against, these points are huge for us,” Mason said. “We’ve been up and down throughout the season. These wins at home are absolutely huge.”
Jose Theodore made saves against Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes before Perron rattled a backhander home in the fourth round.
“It was kind of lucky, too,” Perron said. “It hit the post and it hit his back and then goes in, but I’ll take it. It was a good feeling, but let’s keep building on that.”
Mike Knuble had two goals for the Capitals, who pulled one point ahead of San Jose for the overall NHL lead with 90 points.
“I’m sure they wanted to finish with a couple of points before the break and feel like when everybody comes back they’re right there,” Knuble said. “Sometimes you don’t know how these games go before the break. Sometimes, no whistles, and sometimes they’re really hard-fought.”
Oshie had a goal and an assist and Mason started in goal for the second straight night, following a 4-0 shutout over Toronto. He was perfect in the shootout, stopping Semin with a brilliant sprawling butterfly save in the first round.
Knuble scored both of his goals on the Capitals’ top-ranked power play, while falling short of giving the franchise a fourth straight hat trick by four different players. Semin scored his 30th of the season and added an assist and Theodore made 33 saves.
St. Louis had three one-goal leads in the first two periods and each time the Capitals answered.
Berglund had an easy tap-in after Roman Polak’s wraparound attempt slid through the crease at 9:13 of the first for St. Louis.
Knuble tied it less than two minutes later on a two-man advantage.
Oshie scored his 13th of the season, and second in two nights, converting a setup from Paul Kariya on a break midway through the second, but Semin’s shot from the right point made it 2-2 at 13:26.
Erik Johnson scored on a power play just under two minutes later, and Knuble countered by swatting in a rebound on the backhand for his 23rd of the season at 17:43.
NOTES: The last team with three-goal games by different players in three straight games was Calgary, which had four in a row (Serge Makarov, Joe Nieuwendyk, Theo Fleury and Gary Leeman) in 1992-93. … Blues F Cam Janssen drew a five-minute interference call, resulting in a game misconduct, after his blindside check on Matt Bradley led to a fight with Quintin Laing in the first period. Bradley favoured his left leg leaving the ice and did not return. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau called it a “pretty dirty hit.” … Blues F Keith Tkachuk, struck by a puck earlier in the week, missed his second straight game. … Knuble has 13 goals in his last 16 games. … The Blues announced their 26th sellout of 19,150.