WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 29th goal of the season to extend his point streak to a career-best 14 games and had the shootout winner to help the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Saturday night for the defending Stanley Cup champions’ fifth consecutive victory.
Ovechkin has 17 goals and six points over during his point streak and has scored in six in a row. He fell two goals short of becoming the first player in league history to record a hat trick in three consecutive games.
The focus was on Ovechkin all night with the Russian superstar on one of the best goal-scoring runs of his illustrious career. An audible gasp came from the crowd each time Ovechkin had the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, and he when he scored it was his 10th goal in the past six games.
Brett Connolly and Jakub Vrana had the other goals in regulation for Washington, which got 25 saves from backup goaltender Pheonix Copley.
Sabres captain Jack Eichel scored twice and 2018 first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin had a power-play goal for Buffalo, which had its two-game winning streak snapped. Carter Hutton stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, including seven from Ovechkin.
For a while, it looked like everyone but Ovechkin would score. Eichel gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead 2:41 in just after its power play expired, and a puckhandling gaffe by Hutton allowed Connolly to tie it 58 seconds later.
Vrana put the Capitals up 2-1 midway through the first period on a one-timer. Eichel tied it early in the second and Dahlin gave the Sabres the lead, each on power-play goals against a Washington penalty-killing unit that has struggled of late.
That’s when Ovechkin’s heroics took centre stage. Nicklas Backstrom set him up in open space, and Ovechkin wound up and beat Hutton glove side 13:46 into the second.
Ovechkin beat Hutton once more in the shootout to end it.
NOTES: Sabres D Nathan Beaulieu was injured on a hit by Tom Wilson in the second period and did not return. … The Sabres suspended F Patrik Berglund indefinitely for failing to report to the team. Berglund missed the past two games with what was initially called an illness. … Buffalo D Marco Scandella returned after missing eight games with an upper-body injury. … D Tyler Lewington was a healthy scratch for Washington after being recalled as an extra body on the blue line earlier in the day.
Sabres: Visit the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
Capitals: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press