BOSTON – Alex Ovechkin looks as if he’s ready to carry the Washington Capitals to one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots.
Coming off a strong game two days earlier, Ovechkin collected his 800th career point and raised his league-leading total to 43 goals with a pair of power-play scores, leading the Capitals to a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
“I think we’re just playing more solid right now,” said Ovechkin, who became the 150th player to collect 800 points. “We don’t have time to make mistakes. Every point right now is very important for us.”
Joel Ward and Eric Fehr also scored, and Braden Holtby made 36 saves for the Capitals, who won their fourth straight in their push for the playoffs.
“I think we were missing our swagger a little bit,” Ward said of his team’s play before the Olympic break. “When our team plays with a little bit of cockiness we seem to get wins. We were missing that before the break. We’re finding ways to win. The bottom line is we’re winning games.”
Ovechkin had the go-ahead goal and two assists in a 5-4 win at Florida on Thursday. It’s his first season of 40-plus goals since collecting 40-plus in his first five seasons from 2005-06 to 2009-10.
The Capitals’ star winger even impressed Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with his second goal.
“The second one it seemed like he was going short side and it just kind of knuckled in,” Rask said, breaking into a slight smile to show how impressed he was with the shot.
“I was trying to ask him and he was kind of shaking his shoulders. It’s funny when you see those. He was kind of leaning into it. It’s like impossible to go the other way and it goes the other way. You’re like, ‘Come on, buddy.'”
Washington, which hosts Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, remained one point behind the Flyers for the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
Patrice Bergeron and Shawn Thornton had Boston’s goals. Rask stopped 27 shots in his first start since winning the bronze medal with Finland at the Sochi Olympics. It was just the Bruins’ second regulation loss in their past 13 games (8-2-3).
The Bruins lost 5-4 in overtime at Buffalo on Wednesday.
“We’re getting caught cheating too much in the offensive side and it’s ending up in the back of the net,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “It’s something we need to fix because we’re giving up too many goals.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was disappointed how his team started out.
“For sure that wasn’t our best game,” he said. “We could have done a number of things differently and better. We have to learn from games like this, especially against an opponent like this.”
The Capitals opened a 3-0 lead on second-period goals by Ovechkin and Ward. Similar to his first score of the game, Ovechkin one-timed a blistering shot over the right shoulder of Rask inside the far post from the left circle for his milestone point.
Ward stole a puck near the blue line from defenceman Johnny Boychuk, broke in alone and shifted to his backhand before tucking a shot behind Rask for an unassisted score midway into the period.
The Bruins cut it to 3-1 on Bergeron’s power-play goal 41 seconds later when he snapped off a shot from the slot that beat Holtby inside the left post.
Thornton’s centring pass was inadvertently tipped past Holtby by defenceman Mike Green as he was skating hard to the net battling for position with Bruins forward Gregory Campbell at 17:32. The goal was originally credited to Campbell, but changed early in the third.
But the Capitals made it 4-2 when Fehr scored on a clean breakaway midway into the third. He poked the puck into an open area near centre ice from his own blue line, skated in on Rask and beat him between the pads.
Holtby made a key pad save on Chris Kelly’s breakaway bid while his team was on a power play with 3:06 to play.
Washington led 1-0 after one on Ovechkin’s first goal. He one-timed John Carlson’s pass from the left circle inside the far post at 18:39.
The Capitals held Boston to one shot on goal when they were short-handed for a full two minutes after Jay Beagle was called for holding and Tom Wilson high-sticking during the delayed penalty early in the first period.
“That was a big kill for us,” Holtby said. “I didn’t know it was a 5-on-3 until I looked up on the faceoff. The guys made some big plays. I think one or two shots got through.”
NOTES: Capitals RW Martin Erat, who had to leave Thursday’s game after injuring his left foot, tried to skate during pregame warmups but came off quickly and was not in the lineup. … Washington C Mikhail Grabovski was also out after re-injuring his left ankle Thursday. … It was the first of three meetings between the teams. … Nicklas Backstrom collected an assist on Ovechkin’s first goal to pass Peter Bondra for seventh place on the club’s all-time list with 354 assists. … It was the second game since the Olympic break for both teams. … Boston faces the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. … Washington’s entered the game with the league’s second-best power play.