Ovechkin scores twice, Capitals beat Rangers 4-3 in OT
WASHINGTON (AP) — It takes something special for a shot by Alex Ovechkin to surprise a goaltender.
That’s exactly what happened to Henrik Lundqvist on Wednesday night when Ovechkin scored the first of two power-play goals to help the Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers 4-3 in overtime.
John Carlson essentially bounced a pass to Ovechkin in such an awkward position that Lundqvist didn’t expect him to get it on net and again was beaten.
“I should know with that guy he can shoot from anywhere,” Lundqvist said. “He received a pass and then, boom, he shot it, and before you know it it’s coming at you and I wasn’t able to recover. I learned my lesson there. I’ve played so many times against him I should know to be ready at all times.”
Ovechkin’s two goals on Lundqvist gave him 24 in his career, the most he has scored against any goaltender in the NHL. He has six goals in six games to start the season and tied Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli for ninth on the all-time list for power-play goals with 232.
Asked how he keeps scoring from his usual spot in the faceoff circle, Ovechkin said, “It’s all about luck.”
Luck wasn’t on Ovechkin’s side when he hit the post with 3:30 remaining in regulation, but defenseman Matt Niskanen put the puck past a lunging Lundqvist 2:18 into overtime to end Washington’s two-game losing streak. Niskanen credited do-it-all playmaker Evgeny Kuznetsov for setting up the winner.
“Nice to score,” Niskanen said. “I didn’t do much. Kuzy did a lot of nice work there. I just had to put it in.”
Carlson scored the Capitals’ other goal in regulation, and goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced in arguably his sharpest performance so far this season. Holtby’s most important save came with time running out in the second period when he denied Kevin Hayes on a short-handed breakaway.
Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey and Chris Kreider scored for New York, which picked up a point in the second half of a back-to-back after beating Colorado in a shootout Tuesday. Lundqvist made 34 saves as he played for the second consecutive night and battled through fatigue with the kind of play the rebuilding Rangers will need all season.
“Personally, every time you play back-to-back, it’s definitely a fun challenge to try to stay sharp,” Lundqvist said. “A little disappointing obviously not to come up with two points when you take it to overtime, but three out of four here in two nights, that’s definitely a good step for us.”
Rangers defenseman Neal Pionk had three assists, a positive sign for the Rangers’ youth movement and another signal of coach David Quinn pushing the right buttons. Quinn scratched Pionk earlier in the season and has gotten similar results from other players after taking them out of the lineup.
“Neal played outstanding,” Quinn said. “He probably was our best player. He certainly had a lot of energy. He did a great job on the power play, does a great job on the first goal. He’s a big piece of what we’ve got moving forward.”
NOTES: Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom had two assists to reach 598 for his career. ... F Pavel Buchnevich returned to the Rangers’ lineup, replacing Cody McLeod. ... F Nathan Walker was back in for the Capitals for the first time since Oct. 4. Dmitrij Jaskin was a healthy scratch to clear a spot for Walker ... Quinn returned to the arena he won the NCAA title in as an assistant with Boston University in 2009.
Rangers: Return home to face the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
Capitals: Host the winless Florida Panthers on Friday.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno