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Capitals 4, Canadiens 3, SO @NHLdotcom

WASHINGTON (AP) -First, Alex Ovechkin backhanded a pass to himself off the boards to get around a defenseman at the blue line.

Then he skated through the faceoff circle and kept going - even after he was hooked and jabbed off his skates by a retreating forward.

Sliding toward the crease on his side, Ovechkin then poked the puck past the right pad of the goaltender.

Another instant classic for the reigning MVP.

The Washington Capitals got a 4-3 shootout victory over Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, but the only thing to remember to about to game is Ovechkin's first-period goal, his league-leading 42nd of the season.

"Normal goal. It's not sick," Ovechkin tried to say with a straight face.

Really? So what about that pass to himself?

"You have to try something new," said Ovechkin, on pace to score 60-plus goals for the second consecutive season.

The goal ranks in the same league as Ovechkin's sliding, stick-behind-the-head classic against the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 16, 2006, an all-time YouTube favorite.

"He loves to score, and he's going to score no matter how it goes in - if it's on his stomach, back, whatever, he's going to try to score," teammate Mike Green said. "I think I was more impressed with the backhand around the defenseman."

Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom scored in the shootout for the Capitals, while goaltender Jose Theodore stopped attempts from Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov.

The Canadiens took a 3-2 lead on Plekanec's power-play goal with 11:03 to play in regulation, but the Capitals forced overtime when David Steckel scored with 2:39 remaining. Plekanec, returning from a two-game suspension for tripping Denis Grebeshkov in the Canadiens' 7-2 loss to Edmonton on Feb. 11, also put a shot off the post in the final seconds of overtime.

Backstrom scored in the first period for the Capitals, who have won three straight, 10 of 14 and moved clear of New Jersey into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference. They improved to 23-4-1 at the Verizon Center as they opened a season-long, five-game homestand.

Christopher Higgins and Andrei Kostitsyn scored power-play goals for the faltering Canadiens, who have lost 11 of 14. Markov assisted on all three Montreal goals.

But Ovechkin stole the show.

"He's so strong, and he has that passion to score goals," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "I'm not surprised."

In Columbus, Ohio, Steve Mason made 21 saves - none bigger than a key stop in the closing seconds - to lead Columbus six games over .500 for the first time in the team's eight-year history.

The victory lifted Columbus into a tie for fifth in the Western Conference with Vancouver, both with 64 points. The Blue Jackets (29-23-6), who have never made the playoffs, have 11 points in their last six games.

Rick Nash, Manny Malhotra and Fedor Tyutin each had a goal and an assist. Andrew Murray also scored for Columbus.

Brad Winchester, Alex Steen and T.J. Oshie had goals for St. Louis, which had won both meetings this season and the last five in the series. The Blues scored two third-period goals to cut the lead to one and make the final few minutes interesting.

In Detroit, Nicklas Lidstrom and Johan Franzen each had two goals and an assist and the Detroit Red Wings got five power-play goals to beat the Nashville Predators 6-2 Wednesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler added a goal and as assist each for Detroit, which broke a two-game losing streak. Ty Conklin made 23 saves.

Steve Sullivan scored his first two goals in two years to account for Nashville's offense. Dan Ellis stopped 35 shots.

In New York, Scott Gomez's power-play goal in the second period snapped a tie and gave the Rangers and coach Tom Renney a much-needed win.

The Rangers certainly didn't break out of their offensive funk, nor did they cure their power-play ills, but they did enough against their biggest rival to earn their second win in 10 games (2-6-2).

Nigel Dawes scored in the first period, Fredrik Sjostrom added an empty-netter, and Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves and earned an assist for the Rangers, who began the night in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Chris Drury had three assists.

Because the Rangers never trailed, there were no repeated calls for the firings of Renney and general manager Glen Sather as there were Sunday at Madison Square Garden during a lackluster 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

In Anaheim, Calif., Anze Kopitar scored on a third-period power play.

Ryan Getzlaf tied it at 2 for the Ducks early in the third period, but Dustin Brown and Kopitar responded with the man advantage.

Chris Kunitz scored for Anaheim with 3:40 to play, but Jonathan Quick shut down the Ducks the rest of the way, finishing with 28 saves for his second straight win over Anaheim. He also backstopped a 4-3 win in January.

Each team finished 3-2-1 against its Southern California rival.

Jarret Stoll had a goal and two assists for the Kings. Patrick O'Sullivan also scored for Los Angeles and defenseman Matt Greene added two assists.

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