Ovechkin, Vrana send Capitals to 5-2 win over Senators
WASHINGTON (AP) — All that Alex Ovechkin needed to end his goal drought was a reunion with old linemate Nicklas Backstrom.
Paired with Backstrom for the first time this season, Ovechkin scored his first goal in seven games and 14th overall to help send the Washington Capitals to a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.
“If you love something, you set it free,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz joked. “If it comes back, it was meant to be.”
Jakub Vrana scored twice in the first multi-goal game of his career to help the Capitals earn at least a point against the Senators for a ninth consecutive game.
Evgeny Kuznetsov added a goal and two assists to bring his team-leading assists total to 20. Alex Chiasson had a goal and an assist, and T.J. Oshie had two assists to help Washington avoid losing back-to-back home games for the first time this season.
Backstrom assisted on Ovechkin’s goal, though his own goal drought stretched to 16 games.
“It wasn’t working, the way we played,” Backstrom said about the line switch. “I’m sure the coaching staff felt that way. They wanted to switch things up. So we got two points, and that’s what we need.”
Ryan Dzingle scored on a second-period power play and Mike Hoffman cut the deficit to 4-2 with 7:14 left in the third for Ottawa. In between, however, the Senators failed to capitalize late in the second on a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 76 seconds.
The Senators have lost four straight since sweeping a two-game series against Colorado in Sweden from Nov. 10-11.
“I think every team’s going to go through little ups and downs in the season,” Dzingle said. “I think that’s where we are now.”
Trotz had resisted pairing Ovechkin and Backstrom, last season’s respective leaders in goals and assists for the Capitals, even though the two had played together regularly during their 10 previous seasons in Washington.
The split worked well early, especially for Ovechkin, who scored seven goals in his first two games and 10 overall in October. But with both mired in droughts, Trotz reversed course on Wednesday.
“I don’t think there was any doubt ... how we had to play,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously, we’ve played (together) a long time.”
It paid off in the final moments of the first period, when Backstrom found Chiasson on the right with a long pass from his own zone. Chiasson played it on to a streaking Ovechkin, who finished his breakaway with a wrister past goalie Craig Anderson with five seconds left.
“We give up another one at the end of a period,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “And it was again being impatient, trying to get a goal back. We’ve got three forwards down low and the D pinching with a few seconds left, and Ovechkin’s on the ice. There’s a killer.”
Ovechkin’s tally made it 2-0 after Vrana had poked home the rebound of Kuznetsov’s shot less than five minutes earlier.
Kuznetsov scored on Washington’s first power play early in the second period, and Vrana added his second goal two minutes later on Kuznetsov’s second assist.
NOTES: Ottawa claimed C Gabriel Dumont off waivers from Tampa Bay. ... Senators D Thomas Chabot, who is 20, played in his first game since Oct. 14 after being recalled from AHL Binghamton on Monday. ... D John Carlson got his 16th assist of the season and 11th point in November, tying Kuznetsov for the most by a Capitals player this month. ... The Senators and Capitals conclude their three-game season series on Feb. 27 in Washington.
Senators: Friday night at Columbus.
Capitals: Friday at home against Tampa Bay.
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