EDMONTON – Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to see more out of star forward Alexander Ovechkin.
He certainly got it. Down 2-0 after the first 40 minutes, Ovechkin turned the game around with two third period goals and an assist as the Capitals defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 Saturday. Ovechkin scored just 32 seconds into the third period to cue the comeback after receiving a tongue-lashing from his head coach.
“I challenged him and started him right off the bat in the third and he came through,” Boudreau said. “The reason he is the best player in the planet is that instead of going ‘Woe is me, why is the coach yelling at me?’ he took up the challenge and said ‘I’ll show you’ and got three points and led us to the victory.”
Ovechkin admitted he didn’t have a terrific start to the game.
“We made them feel pretty good about themselves,” he said. “Then Bruce came into our dressing room and gave us a bad time. But in the third, I feel like I’m on fire.”
The Russian star sniper said that even if his third was better, his overall game wasn’t good enough.
“I’m not happy how I played even if I scored two goals,” he said. “That’s now how I want to play or how I want my line to play.”
Tomas Fleischmann and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for the Capitals (22-8-6) who hit the 50-point plateau in their 36th game this season, eclipsing their previous franchise record mark of 50 in 37 games in the 1984-85 season.
Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Cogliano scored for the Oilers (15-16-4) who have now lost three games in a row and have dropped to 8-8-2 at home.
Oilers head coach Pat Quinn said Ovechkin’s goal early in the third started his team down a slippery slope.
“Here’s a guy who is the most dangerous player in hockey and you let him walk out a restricted area and get a couple of whacks at it,” he said. “The second one was a great athletic play. Great players can do those sort of things to you sometimes.
“Based on our first couple periods we should have had a better result. We should have expected a better result and that’s what is disappointing.”
Oilers goaltender Jeff Deslauriers stood on his head in the Edmonton net to keep it scoreless through the first, stopping Alexander Semin on a breakaway three minutes in and making huge stops in tight on Brendan Morrison and Fleischmann in the final five minutes of the opening period. The Capitals had 16 first-period shots to 10 by the Oilers on Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Edmonton broke the deadlock just 1:05 into the second period after Patrick O’Sullivan was denied on a breakaway and Horcoff chipped in the rebound.
Deslauriers made another highlight-reel stop five minutes into the second as he once again stopped Morrison with a glove save in close.
The Oilers went up 2-0 after some sustained pressure in the Washington end as Cogliano swung a hopeful shot on net from the sideboards that bounced off of defender Karl Alzner and in, breaking a 17-game goal-scoring drought.
Washington finally got one past Deslauriers just 32 seconds into the third as Ovechkin was allowed a second whack at a puck pinned to the crease by the Oiler goalie’s pad and scored his 22nd of the season to make it 2-1.
Ovechkin tied the game up six minutes later as he charged in, took a shot from the top of the faceoff circle and scored on his own rebound from a tough angle.
The Capitals almost went up for the first time in the game midway through the third on a two-man advantage but Ladislav Smid fished a puck that was dribbling across the goal line out of harm’s way.
Washington took the lead for good with seven minutes remaining as Fleischmann blasted a shot from the high slot past Deslauriers after a key faceoff win in the Edmonton zone.
“We lost that faceoff and we had four pillars of salt watching the play,” Quinn said.
Backstrom added another with three minutes to play to put the game away.
The Oilers finish off a four-game homestand against St. Louis on Monday, while the Capitals are off until Wednesday when they play host to Buffalo.
Notes: It was Washington’s first visit to Edmonton since October 28, 2006. The Capitals came into the game having lost seven straight in Edmonton dating back to 1996 … The last time the two teams met was last January in Washington when the Oilers posted a 5-2 win … Delauriers started his 14th consecutive game in Oilers net with starter Nikolai Khabibulin out indefinitely with a back injury … The Caps, fresh off a 3-2 loss in Vancouver on Friday night, started backup goalie Michal Neuvirth, It was just the third game this season for Neuvirth who posted a 4.56 GAA and .845 save percentage in his previous appearances … Out since Dec. 7 with a groin injury, rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov had his first full practice with the team earlier in the week but was forced to back off when he felt a twinge. He is now eyeing Wednesday to be an option for a return … With 18 goals on the season, Edmonton forward Dustin Penner has twice as many as any other Oiler.