Ovechkin returns after puck to face, Caps snap Wild’s streak
WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin got stitched up, and so did the Washington Capitals after a rough road trip.
Ovechkin returned after taking a puck to the face and T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist as the Capitals snapped out of a recent funk and ended the Minnesota Wild’s winning streak at four with a 3-1 victory Saturday night.
Bloodied and sporting a few stitches on his lip, Ovechkin shook it off and had an assist to help Washington end its two-game skid.
“It’s fine. It’s hockey,” Ovechkin said. “We dictate our game. I think we have lots of chances. Obviously power play, penalty kill do a great job, we score two goals. We’ll take it and we’ll move forward.”
Oshie, who said the Capitals’ character “was a little bit of a question” after losses at Nashville and Colorado, was motivated to come out with a strong performance. He scored his seventh power-play goal of the season to tie Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead but was far from the only player on top of his game.
“It was addressed that we weren’t playing with enough grit, enough intensity, we weren’t playing for each other enough,” Oshie said. “There was a little extra determination tonight to get the boys going. Didn’t really need to. Everyone was rolling on their own.”
Washington rolled thanks to an even-strength goal in the first by Dmitry Orlov and then a power-play goal in the third by Evgeny Kuznetsov. With goaltender Braden Holtby sharp as usual, the Capitals allowed just one power-play goal, to Nino Niederreiter in the first, and were perfect on their final three penalty kills.
Making his first career start against the Capitals, Wild backup Alex Stalock stopped 40 of 43 shots. Oshie’s goal ended the Wild’s streak of 17 consecutive penalty kills dating to Nov. 4.
“Their power play was better than our power play,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s pretty well the difference, I think. They scored two. We scored one.”
Holtby made 30 saves, including one with the edge of his glove while pinned against the cage. Washington outshot Minnesota 43-31, so Holtby didn’t have to be the hero he was in several recent victories.
He and his teammates were all better than they were against the Predators and Avalanche.
“We knew we needed to be better,” Holtby said. “We knew that’s not near good enough. That’s on everyone in here.”
Ovechkin kept going Saturday night after an errant pass from Chris Stewart ramped up off the Russian superstar’s stick and into his face nine minutes into the second period. Ovechkin went off for repairs, returned for the third period and figured it could’ve been much worse: He could’ve lost some teeth.
With Ovechkin’s teeth still in place, Nicklas Backstrom joked about the captain with the gap-toothed smile.
“It’s just a couple stitches on his lip, so he’ll be fine,” Backstrom said. “Does he have any more teeth?
NOTES: The Capitals improved to 6-0-1 when scoring first and won their fifth in a row at home. ... Stalock stopped Chandler Stephenson on a penalty shot 15:11 into the third period. ...The Wild gave Stalock his first start since Oct. 31 because Boudreau wanted to give No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk a “mental break” after his franchise record shutout streak of 195:54 ended Thursday against Nashville. ... F Jakub Vrana returned to Washington’s lineup after being a healthy scratch Thursday at Colorado. Vrana replaced Nathan Walker. ... Capitals D Christian Djoos remains out with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. Asked if Djoos was in the concussion protocol, coach Barry Trotz said, “I don’t want to answer that.”
Wild: Return home to face New Jersey on Monday night.
Capitals: Continue their four-game homestand Monday night against Calgary.
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