WASHINGTON – On a night of milestones for several Washington Capitals, perhaps the most notable accomplishment was that of the team itself: a sixth straight victory and another two points in its pursuit of a fourth consecutive Southeast Division title.
Alex Ovechkin had two goals and an assist to reach 601 career points, and rookie goalie Braden Holtby recorded his first career shutout Wednesday night in a 5-0 rout of the Edmonton Oilers.
Ovechkin passed Michal Pivonka to gain sole possession of third place on the team’s career points chart. Only Peter Bondra (825) and Mike Gartner (789) have more points in a Washington uniform than Ovechkin, now in his sixth NHL season.
“It was nice to get a couple of goals and get to 600,” Ovechkin said. “Kind of a big night.”
Jason Arnott notched his 900th career point and Dennis Wideman reached 200 to help the Capitals maintain their two-point lead over second-place Tampa Bay.
“It means a lot to Alex, I would think. I was glad to see it,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It must have been something in the water. Two-hundredth point, 900th point, 600th point. It’s all great stuff. I’m glad we got them out of the way; I hope if there’s any other milestones we get them out of the way so guys don’t press for things.”
Holtby stopped 22 shots, few of which were very challenging. He is 6-2-2 in 10 games, all this season, including a solid relief performance against Tampa Bay on Monday.
“It feels good,” the 21-year-old goalie said. “It almost feels better to get the win after an emotional game in Tampa, just to come back and make sure the team played well.”
Eric Fehr scored twice in his return from a 22-game absence because of a shoulder injury, and Marco Sturm got his first point since the Capitals picked him up off waivers on Feb. 26.
Washington’s six-game run matches its longest of the season (Oct. 30-Nov. 11).
Edmonton, which has the fewest points in the NHL, has lost two in row after winning three straight. The Oilers’ sloppy play helped the Capitals use their transition game to the fullest, including a two-man break that produced the game’s third goal.
“When you see the 2-on-0, you think maybe you’ve given up too many,” Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. “We did not manage the game well because we didn’t manage the puck well.”
Nikolai Khabibulin made 31 saves for the Oilers but fell to 10-27-2.
“It was one of those nights where he was alone back there a number of times,” said Renney, who was surprised to see his team play so poorly.
“This is one of those games you don’t like talking about in March,” he said. “I can see maybe the first half of year, but this is March now. I don’t care who we’re playing and how they’re touted, the thing is we have to play our game and tonight we deviated in a big way from that. And that’s disappointing.”
Washington went up 1-0 with a power-play goal at 5:35 of the second period. After Holtby denied Andrew Cogliano on a short-handed breakaway, Ovechkin scored from the left of the net after taking a crisp pass from Arnott.
Fehr scored at 10:32 of the period on a rebound of a shot by John Carlson, who had taken a cross-ice pass from Ovechkin.
Ovechkin made it 3-0 at 3:10 of the third period, converting a two-man rush with Marcus Johansson against a helpless Khabibulin. Ovechkin stripped Oilers defenceman Kurtis Foster of the puck, then went back and forth with Johansson on the rush before scoring from the right side.
That was enough to assure the Capitals their first win by more than one goal in nine games since Feb. 6.
Fehr scored into an open net at 7:47 of the third period after Khabibulin made the mistake of leaving his post to meet Jason Chimera, who was getting in position to receive the puck without a defenceman in sight. Chimera promptly passed the puck to Fehr for the easy score.
Alexander Semin made it 5-0 with 5:30 left. Washington is 17-0-0 when Semen scores a goal.
NOTES: Oilers C Sam Gagner cut his hand and was to stay in Washington overnight as a precaution. … Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom wasscratched because of an injury to his left hand. … The Oilers fell to 3-6-1 in the second of back-to-back games. … Ovechkin’s power-play goal was his sixth of the season, the first at home. … Washington is 32-0-3 when scoring at least three goals.