Alex Ovechkin continued his recent resurgence with his ninth goal in seven games, and the Washington Capitals pulled back into the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with a 3-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild at the Verizon Center on Sunday.
Jason Chimera and Mathieu Perrault also scored, and Braden Holtby made 28 saves in his fourth start of the season as the Capitals broke a two-game skid to move back into a tie on points with the Buffalo Sabres, with Washington holding the tiebreaker.
The Capitals and Sabres, both with just six games remaining in the regular season, meet in Washington on Tuesday night.
"Every guy in the room is paying attention to what is going on around the League right now," Caps forward Mike Knuble said. "It felt good to vindicate ourselves. We showed up today for a game that was a must-win and we won it, so we leave here happy."
Looking again like the player who twice won League MVP, Ovechkin was influential throughout the game, highlighted from his blast from the left circle in the third period for Washington's third goal. He led the Capitals in ice time and had a superb shift during a second-period power play, hustling back to his own end to break up a shorthanded odd-man rush and then supplying the secondary assist on Perrault's goal that made it 2-0.
Ovechkin has 36 goals on the season, having recently pass his career-low from last season, but he's still on pace for a career-low in points. He has 61, well below last season's mark of 85.
"I played him a lot with one less forward," Caps coach Dale Hunter said of Ovechkin. "But I watched on the bench and he seemed fresh every time I put him on, so he had good jump tonight and he showed it on the ice."
Recent call-up Holtby, sharing time with Michal Neuvirth while Tomas Vokoun recovers from a groin injury, started for the third time in four games and shut down the NHL's lowest- scoring team for his third career shutout. His point-blank save on Devin Setoguchi in the first period helped set the tone for the Capitals, who needed to re-establish momentum after blowing a 3-0 lead in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.
"If I get the opportunity, I want to play hard and win games," Holtby said. "Obviously this time of year, with the way the standings are, it doesn't matter who's in goal. We need wins and we got one tonight."
Another goaltender not long promoted from the minors, Matt Hackett, made 20 saves for the Wild. Niklas Backstrom did not make the trip because of a lower-body injury, and Josh Harding played Saturday in a 3-1 loss at Buffalo.
The Wild were shut out for the eighth time this season. Their latest injury casualty is center Matt Cullen, sidelined after breaking his right index finger in Saturday's loss at Buffalo.
"You can go into a game and be chance-for-chance with them and come out frustrated at the end of the game because they got guys who can capitalize on mistakes," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said of the Caps. "We just have to continue to push forward here. Obviously, we're not going to play perfect, but we played a really strong game through most (of the game)."
After a scoreless first period, Chimera gave the Capitals the lead by converting the feed from Alexander Semin on a 2-on-1 break. Perrault poked in a pass from Troy Brouwer for Washington's second goal.
"It's fun to be on his line when he's creating chances like that," Chimera said of Semin. "You give him the puck and let him go. You just put your stick on the ice and deflect it in. He's a great player and when he plays like that. You can't stop him."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.