NHL News

Rally Caps: Ovechkin, Capitals storm past Isles

The Washington Capitals lead the NHL in wins, points and goals as they storm into their bye week.

If there was a category for dramatic, come-from-behind, weekend, matinee victories in the NHL, the Capitals would probably lead that as well.

Alex Ovechkin scored three goals, continuing a recent run that is lofty for even his standards, and Washington rallied from a 4-1 deficit to outlast the New York Islanders, 6-4, on Long Island Saturday afternoon.

“We just said to ourselves, let’s force the puck in, let’s create a forecheck, everything that we have to do to put it in the net. And if we get one, you never know what’s going to happen,” Ovechkin said. “We got one, obviously it was huge, and then we knew we were coming back. It was pretty special.”

The win was Washington’s third straight, and sixth in the last eight games as it will now take a week off from game action before returning to the ice Jan. 27 at Montreal.

“I just wanted to leave everything I had out there, because I knew we had a week off,” said Ovechkin, who will miss a game when the Capitals return as a result of him skipping the All-Star Game. “Now, it’s time to regroup and get ready for the second half of the year.”

Included in the Capitals’ 6-2 run was a 5-4 overtime victory over San Jose, in which Washington rallied from a 4-2 deficit with less than a minute in regulation before Lars Eller won it in the extra session in a matinee home game Sunday, Jan. 5.

“Nobody in here wants to lose. We never want to be in that type of position — down, 4-1 — so everybody was kind of pissed off,” Ovechkin said. “But it’s a good thing about this group, we never give up, it doesn’t matter what the score is. We don’t want to be out there just to play, let’s just go back out there and try to win.”

Ovechkin tied Steve Yzerman for ninth on the career goals list, and Jakub Vrana scored the go-ahead goal with 2:30 left after the Islanders turned the puck over in their own zone.

Ovechkin also passed Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the career list. His 692nd goal came late in the third period on an empty net to seal the victory, with the Capitals scoring five times in the final 20 minutes.

“I wanted to play him every other shift in the third. I felt that he was going, he was all-in, and he’s been in a really good place the last three games,” Washington coach Todd Rierden said. “We needed to get him out there. That was really strong leadership from him. You talk about second-tier leaders we have in the room, but ultimately, it comes back to him and the way he played, and the way he carried himself.

“He just never, never stopped.”

According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, this is the 3rd time in Ovechkin’s career he has recorded hat tricks in consecutive games. And with 26 career hat tricks, he has tied Maurice Richard for 8th-most in NHL history.

Nicklas Backstrom, who this week agreed to a five-year, $46 million deal with the Capitals, kept up a run himself. With an assist in the win, he now has 11 points in his last 11 games.

The only real hiccup that Capitals encountered on their getaway day was in net. Ilya Samsonov replaced an ineffective Braden Holtby, who allowed four goals on 22 shots. Samsonov made seven saves en route to the victory.

As the league nears its All-Star break next week, the Eastern Conference playoff race is a congested mix of legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, with Washington at the top of the heap. As play began Saturday, four of the top five teams in the overall league standings hailed from the East — Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay — yet only the Capitals had topped 30 wins (33) and 70 points (71).

“We just play our game, and when you have momentum on our shoulders, it shows,” Ovechkin said. “You could see that in the third period.

“It’s fun to play like that.”

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