Ovechkin scores, Capitals defeats Penguins 3-2 in shootout


WASHINGTON — Nicklas Backstrom was more dour than usual the morning before he and the Washington Capitals faced the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“That sometimes happens when you’ve lost twice in a row,” he said.

At the end of the evening, Backstrom turned the tide by scoring the shootout winner in a 3-2 win on Thursday that ended the Capitals’ two-game slip and kept them ahead of their archrivals in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“It’s always good to get a chance at a shootout, and it’s always nice to get a win,” Backstrom said with a smile. “That’s all that matters. Yes, go ahead.”

Washington recorded just a third win in eight games, thanks to 35 saves in the rule and overtime from Darcy Kuemper and goals from Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson. Kuemper stopped Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the shootout to give the Penguins a fifth loss in eight games.

The normally even-tempered goaltender, who pushed Colorado back to the Stanley Cup last season, gave a vigorous arms-open cheer after repelling Malkin’s attempt.

“For us, those were two great points, that’s actually no secret,” said Kümper. “We knew how big this game was going to be. It took us some effort, but these games feel really good once you get the job done. We played super hard and deserved it.”

With goals from Danton Heinen and Bryan Rust, the Penguins picked up a point for their sixth straight game and are just a point behind Washington overall. Pittsburgh also has three more games on the schedule, but that was no consolation after losing this one.

“We did a pretty good job just fighting and fighting,” Crosby said. “It’s a night thing. We have to make sure we’re consistent, but we’ve been fighting hard and finding ways, and we have to find another level here to stretch run.

Casey DeSmith found another level at the net, stopping 43 of 45 shots in regulation and OT in a start in place of injured No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry. DeSmith gave up six goals against Florida on Tuesday and recovered strongly.

“I felt great,” DeSmith said. “I felt like myself. I felt like I had played my game, which I was very happy about. That was kind of my focus going in – just trusting my game, going out and playing it, and luckily I was able to do that.

But also the Capitals, who have Ovechkin and his trademark one-timer on the power play. Ovechkin’s first-half goal earned him 32 this season and 812 in his NHL career, 82 behind Wayne Gretzky’s record.

Johansson put Washington ahead early in the third half before Rust equaled by 7:08 to keep the Penguins’ scoring streak alive. But the Capitals left the building in a much happier mood thanks to shootout goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Backstrom.

“I feel like we had a good game,” said Johansson. “We want to get back on the road to success here and clinch a few victories.”

Penguins: Return home to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night in their final game before their bye week and NHL All-Star break.

Capitals: Visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday afternoon.

Follow AP Hockey writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Leave a Comment