With a strong two-goal performance from Alex Ovechkin, who captured his 1,000th NHL point, the Washington Capitals were able to stop a solid Pittsburgh Penguins team in their tracks. They left Verizon Center with a 5-2 victory and appeared to have no trouble taking care of Pittsburgh’s dangerous arsenal of scorers.
The victory gives the Capitals 59 points on the season, moving them within one point of the Metropolitan Division lead. With the loss, Pittsburgh remains third in the Metropolitan Division, however, a Washington victory also bumped Montreal down to the third seed in the Eastern Conference, ultimately pushing Pittsburgh down another spot.
Fans packed Verizon Center Wednesday with hopes of seeing Ovechkin hit 1,000 NHL points in his career. Sitting at 999 points going into the game, Ovechkin got the milestone out of the way 35 seconds into the first period.
Speeding down the zone, the Russian winger made a nifty toe drag move before firing a wrister right past Marc-Andre Fleury. With the tally, Ovechkin not only scored his 1,000th point but had his 20th goal of the season.
Despite a strong showing from the Capitals’ top line, the Penguins outshot Washington in the first frame, 13-9. Pittsburgh also had three power-play chances through the first, but couldn’t capitalize or break through the Capitals’ impressive penalty killing units.
Going into the second period, the Capitals and Penguins continued to take penalties back and forth. Finally, eight minutes into the middle frame, too much time in the sin bin would prove dangerous for Pittsburgh.
After receiving a nice pass from Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson found a wide-open Alex Ovechkin in his office in the left circle. From there, he fired a dart of a one-timer top shelf, giving him his second goal of the night and his team a 2-0 lead.
Both teams would put up plenty of scoring opportunities in the second period, but both goaltenders were solid, not allowing anything through. Braden Holtby looked perfect between the pipes for Washington, boasting yet another sensational performance. Going into the final 20 minutes of regulation, the Penguins found themselves on the wrong side of things, trailing their rivals by two tallies.
Four minutes into the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov found himself in the offensive zone, playing with the puck as if it were on a string. After some rather impressive stickhandling, he found Justin Williams in his office: right in front of the net. From there, Williams tapped the puck in through the five-hole of Fleury, putting the Penguins in a 3-0 hole.
Five Washington penalties and around three minutes later, Pittsburgh’s power-play was finally able to get away with a goal. On a nice pass from Justin Schultz, Evgeni Malkin scored on a one-time shot that deflected past Braden Holtby, pulling the Penguins within two.
Despite their push, Nicklas Backstrom would net another power-play goal with about seven minutes remaining in regulation, putting Pittsburgh back at a three-goal deficit. Though Patric Hornqvist would give the Penguinsa nother power-play tally, pulling them within two with a few minutes remaining in the thrid. However, Lars Eller put the final nail in the coffin with an empty net goal, and Braden Holtby boasted an excellent 30-save performance to bring Washington to their 5-2 victory.
WSH – Alex Ovechkin (20) assisted by Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie
WSH – John Carlson (5) assisted by Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov
WSH- Alex Ovechkin (21) assisted by John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom
WSH- Justin Williams (12) assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov
PIT- Evgeni Malkin (17) assisted by Justin Schultz and Phil Kessel
WSH- Nicklas Backstrom (11) assisted by T.J. Oshie and John Carlson
PIT- Patric Hornqvist (10) assisted by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel
WSH- Lars Eller (4) assisted by Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie
THW Three Stars
Nicklas Backstrom (one goal, three assists)
Alex Ovechkin (two goals)
T.J. Oshie (three assists)
Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals
Verizon Center, 7 p.m. EST on Jan. 13
Broadcast Channels: CSNMA, CSNC
Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators
Canadian Tire Centre, 7 p.m. EST on Jan. 12
Broadcast Channels: RDS2, TSN5
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.