SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers shut out Washington’s record-setting defenceman, but couldn’t stop the NHL’s top goal scorer.
Mike Green’s NHL-record goals streak for defencemen ended at eight games, but Alexander Ovechkin scored three times to give the Capitals a 4-2 victory Sunday.
“Arguably the best player in the game made some big-time plays,” Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. “That’s what beat us.”
Ovechkin’s second goal broke a tie with 2:31 left, and he completed his third hat trick of the season and the eighth of his career with an empty-netter to push his NHL-leading goals total to 41.
Ovechkin said after the game he told Florida goalie Tom Vokoun during pre-game warmups he would score two goals off him.
“I’m sure he tells every goalie that, and when it comes true, he’s telling you guys,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s sort of covering himself a little bit there. But it wouldn’t surprise me.”
On the winner, Ovechkin took a long pass from Nicklas Backstrom deep in Florida territory, made a quick move back and fired a wrist shot from the wing that went through all-star defenceman Jay Bouwmeester and beat Vokoun through the five-hole.
“I tried to use my speed just a little, use my body and after that I just tried to shoot the puck and it was in,” said Ovechkin, who had only two assists in Washington’s first two games against Florida this season.
His first goal gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 15:38 of the first period. He scored on the power play when his wrist shot along the ice beat Vokoun while he was being screened by Washington forward Brooks Laich.
Green, who broke the defenceman goals streak record against Tampa Bay on Saturday night, had four shots on goal. His best scoring chance came in the second period on a power play, but Vokoun stopped his one-timer from the high slot.
“It has to come to an end,” Green said. “Couldn’t score for the rest of the year, but it would have been nice. But as long as we get the win, that’s all that matters.”
Green also failed to record an assist, putting an end to his eight-game points streak. He said after the game he was happy the pressure to score was off.
“Finally,” Green said. “Can maybe get back to just playing and not worrying about records and stuff like that.”
Eric Fehr also scored for Washington, extending his goals streak to four games.
Washington is 9-2-2 in its last 13 games and extended its lead over second-place Florida in the Southeast Division to 13 points.
Michael Frolik and Nathan Horton scored for the Florida. The Panthers lost in regulation for only the fourth time since Jan. 1 (12-4-3).
“We had an opportunity to get a point, but we didn’t get it and we’ve got to bounce back because we’ve got a tough week,” said DeBoer, whose team’s next three games are at home against Chicago and division leaders New Jersey and Boston.
Washington’s Jose Theodore stopped 29 shots.
Vokoun, making his sixth consecutive start for Florida, also made 29 saves.
“The third goal should have been stopped,” Vokoun said. “It’s a crucial moment of the game. It’s tough. You’ve got to make that save at that point. I didn’t today. We battled back and could have picked up a point. It’s definitely disappointing.”
Horton tied it at two with a power-play goal at 1:29 of the third. With Sergei Fedorov in the penalty box for delay of game, Horton scored off a scramble in front of the net when the puck slid across the crease. Horton also hit the post on a wrist shot from the slot during a power play midway through the third period.
The Panthers were 1-for-8 on the power play.
“We’ve been playing pretty good on the power play the last couple of games,” Horton said. “We haven’t scored many goals, but we’ve been getting a lot more chances than we used to. It’s a matter of capitalizing.”
Fehr gave Washington a 2-0 lead 30 seconds into the second period after Fedorov skated to the net from the side. Fedorov lost control of the puck, but it went straight to Fehr, who put a backhand past Vokoun.
Frolik got Florida on the board at 12:08 of the second when he took Stephen Weiss’ pass from behind the net and fired a short shot over the right shoulder of Theodore.
“It was huge tonight,” Green said. “We don’t want to give them any room on us or to gain any ground. We don’t want them to think that they can beat us at any point this season. Tonight we stepped up and played well.”
Notes: Green fell one short of tying the overall Washington record for consecutive games with a goal, set by Alan Haworth (1985-86) and matched by Mike Gartner (1986-87). … Ovechkin played in his 300th NHL game. … Florida missed a chance to set a franchise record with a sixth consecutive home victory. The Panthers have won five in a row at home three times, the last time in March 2008. … Alexander Semin’s assist on Ovechkin’s goal gave him 50 points on the season, making the Capitals the first team in the league with four 50-point scorers. … Washington leads the season series 2-1.