Ovechkin scores, has shootout winner as Caps beat Sabres
WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin thought he had a chance to score every time he shot the puck and came away disappointed he finished with just one goal.
Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 29th goal of the season, extended 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. The Russian superstar and reigning playoff MVP continued one of the best runs of his career and fell two goals shy of becoming the first player in league history to record a hat trick in three consecutive games.
“It would be nice to get another hatty or whatever,” Ovechkin said. “But nothing you can do about it.”
Ovechkin did just about everything he could, putting eight shots on net and beating Buffalo goaltender Carter Hutton for the tying goal in the second period. He has 17 goals and six points during his point streak and has scored in six games in a row.
An audible gasp came from the crowd each time Ovechkin had the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, and the goal was his 10th in the past six games. Yet Ovechkin sounded like a player who came up empty.
“I have pretty good chances, but today, it was not my day,” Ovechkin said. “You can’t score every night.”
Ovechkin is testing that limit. He’s six ahead of the next-closest player in the league, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, and is on pace to surpass 60 goals at age 33.
“Such a threat, especially when he’s confident and he’s shooting the puck where he wants,” said Brett Connolly, who scored the Capitals’ first goal. “He’s a bull out there, it seems like he keeps getting better and better every year.”
With their captain leading the way, the defending Stanley Cup champions are on a five-game winning streak and have won 12 of their past 14 games.
“There’s a really strong spirit in this team,” said Jakub Vrana, who also scored for Washington. “We just going to build on that, and it’s going to help us in the future.”
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. Hutton stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, including seven from Ovechkin.
“He made some big saves all game,” defenseman Zach Bogosian said. “He did a real good job of keeping us in it and making some big saves at key times. That’s what both of our goalies have done all year. It’s been good to see.”
Buffalo’s power play cashed in twice plus Eichel’s just after a Washington penalty expired, and its penalty kill was 4 for 4 against the Capitals’ vaunted unit. Going toe-to-toe and picking up a point against the defending champions showed the Sabres they could hang with the league’s best.
“It’s a really good team over there,” Eichel said. “They put a lot on us. They’re not the Stanley Cup champs for no reason. They have a lot of really good players over there, some guys who are going to go to the Hall of Fame, and I think we did a lot of good things.”
NOTES: Capitals G Pheonix Copley stopped 25 of 28 shots in regulation and overtime and two of three in the shootout. ... Sabres D Nathan Beaulieu was injured on a hit by Tom Wilson in the second period and did not return. Coach Phil Housley said Beaulieu would be re-evaluated ... 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.
Sabres: Visit the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
Capitals: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno