ANAHEIM, Calif. – Alex Ovechkin is dangerous enough when the Washington Capitals are at even strength. Having him on the power play is tantamount to piling on.
The reigning NHL MVP scored with the man advantage to extend his goal streak to five games and added three assists, sending the Capitals to a 6-4 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.
“A guy like Alex Ovechkin probably rubs off on everybody in the league,” Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan said. “You’re certainly excited to see him play and compete against him. He brings out his best every game and brings out the best in everybody around him.”
Last season, Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy with a league-high 65 goals, the most ever by a left wing. He captured the Art Ross Trophy as MVP with 112 points to lead Washington to a Southeast Division title. His goal total represented 27.2 per cent of the team’s total output.
The Capitals awarded him with a US$124 million, 13-year contract extension, and he’s only 23. Washington is 15-0-1 in the last 16 games in which Ovechkin has scored a goal, and 25-3-2 in the last 30 such games. In the Capitals’ previous contest, he scored the tying goal with a second left in regulation before they lost to New Jersey in a shootout.
Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Green scored less than two minutes apart early in the first period with the man advantage. Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Bradley and David Steckel also scored and Michael Nylander had two assists for the Capitals, who were 3-for-8 on the power play while winning for the sixth time in seven games.
“We’ve been practising it and practising it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Just because we haven’t scored multiple goals, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t had chances. I think we have scored one in four or five games in a row, and we are steadily moving the percentage up. Those things are difference-makers and we thought today with special teams were going to make the difference in the game.”
Rob Niedermayer, back in the Anaheim lineup after a one-game benching, was sent off for slashing at 1:26 of the second period and Ovechkin scored on the ensuing power play for his eighth goal of the season and a 4-2 Washington lead.
“We beat a great team tonight,” said Ovechkin, who has 14 points in his last five games. “We just tried to play it simple, and that is the key for us. We have a lot of skilled guys, and we just have to use our skills. Sometimes we just try to play too fancy. But tonight we just shot the puck, controlled the game and created some great chances to score goals. And you saw the results.”
The only other time Ovechkin played in Anaheim was Jan. 13, 2006, when he scored in overtime to complete a hat trick and give the Capitals a 3-2 victory.
“It’s fun to play against a team you don’t see a lot because sometimes they don’t know what you can do,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always important when you have a good start.”
Washington played without Alexander Semin, who missed his second consecutive game because of an undisclosed upper-body injury. Sergei Fedorov missed his sixth straight with a sprained ankle, as did Shaone Morrisonn due to a groin injury.
Ryan scored his first two goals of the season and assisted on another for the Ducks, who were 2-3-1 on their longest homestand of the season. Teemu Selanne also scored, Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist and Corey Perry had three assists.
Ducks backup goalie Jonas Hiller, who made 29 saves against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday for his first NHL shutout, was rewarded by coach Randy Carlyle with another start – and promptly gave up three goals on six shots before he was pulled at 7:13 of the first period for Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
“Coming out and giving up three goals right away, it doesn’t help our cause. We have to be ready to play for the full 60 minutes,” Perry said. “It’s an uphill climb when you get down 3-0 in the first five minutes. The rest of the game we had to battle back.”
Notes: The Capitals scored the first two times they had the man advantage. Fleischmann extended his goal-scoring streak to three games. … Ryan, playing his second game since being recalled from the minors, scored 24 seconds after the Ducks switched goalies. He then set up Getzlaf for a short wrist shot from the slot that beat Jose Theodore high to the glove side at 16:56.