WASHINGTON – Ovechkin once. Ovechkin twice. Steen not at all.
Just like that, there’s a tie atop the NHL goal scoring race, as well as a new leader in the Metropolitan Division.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 16th and 17th goals in the first period, while Alexander Steen was held pointless for only the second time this season Sunday night in the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
“For me, it means a lot,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always nice to score big goals in big game, but it was a very good team effort today.”
Braden Holtby made 46 saves, a career high for a regular season game. Mikhail Grabovski and John Carlson also scored, and Nicklas Backstrom had three assists for the Capitals, who have won three straight win and seven out of nine to leapfrog the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the division.
Vladimir Sobotka scored in the second period for the Blues, who had won eight of 10. The Capitals caught them at a good time, with St. Louis playing for the third time in four nights and on the second half of a back-to-back after a home win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
“We knew they’re a hot team, they’re a good team, strong, and we knew their situation last night and what they had to deal with,” Carlson said. “And I’m sure they’re saying it’s not an excuse, but for us we wanted to jump on them as quick as possible.”
Sure enough, the Blues said the schedule wasn’t an excuse, but they also knew they couldn’t afford to be playing catch-up with tired legs.
“First period, we were a step behind,” St. Louis defenceman Jay Bouwmeester said. “To get down like that against a tough like that, it’s tough.”
The Blues took a season-high 47 shots compared to 20 for the Capitals, but the statistic is misleading. St. Louis’ quality chances were few and far between, while Washington scored on three of its first six shots.
Ovechkin got the first two. Sprung on a pass at centre ice by Backstrom—another sign of the solid chemistry that has developed between the two—Ovechkin sped past the Blues defencemen and into the right circle for a clean look, beating goaltender Jaroslav Halak stick-side. Ovechkin then flicked in a rebound off a shot by Karl Alzner to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the game.
Meanwhile, Steen finished with three shots on goal and another four that were blocked. His points streak came to an end at 13 games, the longest for a Blues player since Pierre Turgeon’s 15-game run in 1999-2000.
“We had lots of shots, but we didn’t have any real penetration, or good shots,” Bouwmeester said. “That wasn’t our best game, for sure.”
After Ovechkin’s two goals, Grabovski poked in a rebound from a tight angle to make it 3-0 late in the first period.
The Blues and Capitals also have the top two power plays in the NHL, and they traded man-advantage goals in the second period. Sobotka and Carlson each scored with a drive through traffic from high in the slot, with Carlson’s goal ending an 0 for 11 power-play drought for Washington over the previous three games.
“Obviously we expected them to be a little tired,” Washington coach Adam Oates said. “But I don’t think those goals came from fatigue. I think we got rewarded for doing the right things.”
Notes: The Blues had scored first in their previous 10 games. … The Capitals have won six in a row at home. … Washington D Mike Green missed his second consecutive game with a lower body injury and was placed on injured reserve. Oates said Green might return for Wednesday’s game against the Penguins. … The Capitals recalled D Dmitry Orlov from Hershey of the AHL. … Holtby had a 47-save game in the 2012 playoffs against the New York Rangers.
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