WASHINGTON (AP)—Alexander Ovechkin ended his scoring drought, helped the Washington Capitals snap their five-game skid and brought an abrupt conclusion to the New York Rangers’ longest winning streak in four years.
Ovechkin had a goal and three assists, Olaf Kolzig stopped 37 shots, and the Capitals cruised to a surprisingly easy 5-1 victory Saturday night.
After scoring 15 goals in his first 19 NHL games, Ovechkin had gone six games without a goal before capitalizing on a New York mistake at 12:11 of the first period.
“I spoke to my mom, my dad, my brother and my agent. They said, ‘Don’t even think about it and play how you can,” the Russian said. “This game I don’t think about it and I score.”
He added assists on Washington’s next three goals, providing Washington with a 4-0 lead after two periods.
“I thought we did a real good job of plugging up the middle of the ice,” Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. “It took us playing our best, and pretty much all parts of our game were on par.”
Kolzig lost a bid for his 34th career shutout when Petr Prucha scored a power-play goal with 1:43 left. But Kolzig fared far better than New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, who came in with a 2.00 goals-against average.
Lundqvist was pulled midway through the third period with the score 5-0. At that point, it was apparent that New York’s six-game winning streak—its longest since November 2001—was done.
“We just didn’t really have a chance. When we had a chance, there was Kolzig in the net,” New York star Jaromir Jagr said. “They just played better than us. From the first minute, they were all over the place and it was just a matter of time until they were going to score.”
Jagr was booed by the hometown fans every time he touched the puck. Jagr, who came in tied for second in the NHL with 40 points, spent 2 1/2 unremarkable seasons with the Capitals before being traded to New York in January 2004.
“I want to forget my time in Washington,” he said recently.
Although he recorded an assist, Jagr endured his third straight game without a goal.
Two of New York’s eight defeats have come against Washington, and the first-place Rangers needed a 15-round shootout to beat the Capitals at home last week.
Fortunately for New York, the teams don’t play again until March.
“I’m surprised they don’t have a better record. They play hard and work hard,” Rangers defenseman Darius Kasparaitis said.
Ovechkin ended his dry spell by blocking an attempted clearing by Ville Nieminen, gaining control of the puck and firing a wrist shot from the middle of the left circle for a 1-0 lead.
Zubrus made it 2-0 at 16:23, taking a pass from Ovechkin before firing a shot from deep on the right side that glanced off Lundqvist’s pads and into the net.
Ovechkin played a prominent role in Washington’s next goal, too. He weaved through the New York defense into the right circle before releasing a centering pass that Eminger converted for a 3-0 lead at 8:01 of the second period.
Late in the period with the Capitals on the power play, Ovechkin skated toward the goal and fell to the ice after shooting. He got back up and fed the puck to Halpern, who beat Lundqvist for his second goal of the season.
“That’s what (Ovechkin) is really about,” Hanlon said. “We’ve been pretty happy with Alexander’s play all through this. Tonight it went in for him, and he made great plays on the other ones.”
Washington assigned C Graham Mink to Hershey (AHL) after recalling him before the game. The Capitals also assigned C Brooks Laich to Hershey. The team plans to recall both players early next week. … New York went 1-for-5 on the power play and is 2-for-28 over its last five games.