WASHINGTON -- When the St. Louis Blues arrived at Verizon Center to face the Washington Capitals on Sunday, they brought with them Alexander Steen, the only player in the League with more goals than Alex Ovechkin.
Steen did not leave the arena with the same designation.
Ovechkin tied Steen for the NHL goal-scoring lead with two first-period goals, and the Capitals held Steen scoreless for only the fifth time in the Blues' first 19 games, snapping his 13-game point streak as well en route to a 4-1 win, their sixth straight at home.
"We're really happy about this one," said Nicklas Backstrom, who finished with his third three-assist game of the season and 24th since entering the League in 2007-08, the most over that span. "We knew they're a great team, and obviously they played last night and had a long flight. We were aware of that and we wanted to come out hard. We were a little lucky; we scored on our chances there at the beginning, and then I think we just followed our game plan from there."
Braden Holtby made a career-high 46 saves, holding the Blues to a season-low one goal on a season-high 47 shots.
Ovechkin's first goal opened the scoring at 7:17. Steve Oleksy corralled Chris Stewart's clearing attempt and quickly reversed the flow by feeding Backstrom, whose crafty one-touch pass freed a hard-charging Ovechkin. With plenty of space, Ovechkin wound up and fired a slap shot past Jaroslav Halak.
It took a little more than five minutes for Ovechkin to score his second of the game and 17th of the season. Halak was able to knock down Karl Alzner's rising slap shot, set up by a rink-wide pass from Backstrom, but Ovechkin pounced on the rebound before Halak could, backhanding the puck over the goaltender's catching glove to extend Washington's lead to 2-0.
"[Coach Adam Oates] talked about how I have to stay more in the middle of the ice in the offensive zone because lots of pucks go there and I can find the rebound there," Ovechkin said. "It's working."
The Blues (13-3-3) and Capitals (12-8-1) entered the game with the best and second-best power-play units, respectively, and the teams' man-advantage units took center stage in the second period. First, Vladimir Sobotka cut St. Louis' deficit to 3-1 when he beat Holtby high to the stick side with a wrist shot from the slot at 5:29.
Washington responded less than four minutes later on a power play of its own when John Carlson's slap shot from the high slot eluded Elliot. In front of USA Hockey brass, Carlson, a 2014 Sochi Olympics hopeful, scored his fifth goal of the season, all of which have come within the past eight games.
"I thought when we made it 3-1, I thought we were really making a comeback," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought we really battled. ... I really thought when we made it 3-1, we were going to win the hockey game. I thought we had them on their heels. We were really coming on the forecheck and we were really creating a lot of turnovers. They got that fourth goal, and it kind of took the wind out of our sails."
With the victory, Washington climbed over the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division by one point. The two teams meet for the first time this season Wednesday at Verizon Center. The Blues will continue their three-game road trip against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
|Alex Ovechkin (16) ASST: Nicklas Backstrom (17), Steve Oleksy (6)|
1 - 0 WSH
|Alex Ovechkin (17) ASST: Karl Alzner (4), Nicklas Backstrom (18)|
2 - 0 WSH
|Mikhail Grabovski (7) ASST: Jason Chimera (9), Joel Ward (5)|
3 - 0 WSH
|PPG - Vladimir Sobotka (3) ASST: Kevin Shattenkirk (13), Jay Bouwmeester (14)|
3 - 1 WSH
|PPG - John Carlson (5) ASST: Nicklas Backstrom (19), Marcus Johansson (16)|
4 - 1 WSH
|Power Play %||22.3%||25.3%|
|% on Road||25.4%||23.7%|
|% at Home||19.4%||26.8%|
|Tyson Strachan Slashing against Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Martin Erat Hooking against Alexander Steen|
|Tom Wilson Fighting (maj) against Ryan Reaves|
|Ryan Reaves Fighting (maj) against Tom Wilson|
|Tom Wilson Roughing against Ryan Reaves|
|Vladimir Sobotka Hooking against Michael Latta|
|Alexander Steen Cross checking against Nate Schmidt|
|Jason Chimera Interference against David Backes|
|Brooks Laich Hi-sticking against T.J. Oshie|
|David Backes Interference against Nicklas Backstrom|
|David Backes Roughing against Nate Schmidt|