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Alex Ovechkin, Capitals end skid

Washington captain scores first goal in 11 games to help stop four-game losing streak

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals didn't fix all that was ailing them, but their universe felt more in order after a 4-2 win against the Minnesota Wild at Verizon Center on Tuesday.

Having Alex Ovechkin score a goal has a way of doing that.

It wasn't pretty. Even Ovechkin said it wasn't a good shot. He partially fanned on it.

But his one-timer from the left circle went in off Devan Dubnyk on the short side to extend the Capitals lead to 2-0 with 5:08 remaining in the second period. It was Ovechkin's first goal since Feb. 19.

"It's a goal," said Ovechkin, who had an assist on Nate Schmidt's goal in the first period. "It was not a perfect shot, but I had pretty good opportunities before and it didn't go in," Ovechkin said. "It's turn around very quickly if I'm going to get that kind of goal."

Although Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 28 goals, his 10 games without one before Tuesday represented the longest drought of his career. He had also gone 18 consecutive games without an even-strength goal, another career-high.

This goal came one second after a Capitals power play expired, so that drought is over too.

"I know he's a goal-scorer, and I'm sure he gets a little confidence from that goal," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "After the goal, you could really tell he got a little confidence and was skating well, and he challenged their [defensemen] a lot, so that was fun to see."

Ovechkin finished the game with a goal and an assist, three shots on goal and a game-high four hits in 18:11 of ice time. He downplayed the significance of his individual performance in comparison with the importance of the win.

The Capitals had lost four in a row, including all three games on their California road trip, to fall into a tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and NHL standings. Defeating the Wild, who were in first place in the Western Conference before being overtaken by the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, put the Capitals two points ahead of the Penguins with 13 regular-season games remaining.

"Right now we're in position where we [lost] four in a row and I kind of don't feel like you have worry about your personal stats," Ovechkin said.

Video: MIN@WSH: Ovechkin beats Dubnyk with one-timer

But coach Barry Trotz acknowledged it was a relief to see Ovechkin score again.

"Yeah, it is," Trotz said. "A lot is made of him not scoring the last little while, but I'll tell you what: he's playing pretty good hockey. He's skating really well, he's becoming a force again and when he's becoming a force, then you know those goals are going to come. So he's doing a lot of good things right now. I don't think he needs to change anything.

"He's just got to get a couple to find the back of the net and you'll see … Ovi, he might get 20 in the next 10 games. That's what he's capable of."

If Ovechkin can get hot in time for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it would be a huge boost for the Capitals. They're going to need more than Ovechkin to win the Stanley Cup, but they probably won't win it without him contributing offensively consistently.

The Capitals have looked lost at times since coming out of their six-day break last month; they were 5-6-1 in 12 games before Tuesday and scored more than two goals twice over that span. In their 22 games before their break, the Capitals went 19-2-1 and scored at least four goals 17 times.

Allowing 17 goals during their losing streak also raised a red flag. After a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, defenseman Brook Orpik suggested the Capitals weren't as focused on their road trip as they should have been against teams either fighting for a playoff berth or higher seeding.

"It was a bit of a wake-up call for us and it's good," Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said. "I said before it was going to show what kind of character we had in this group and this is a good start for that, but it's one game and we move on. In order to be successful, you've got to be consistent and now our focus shifts to next game."

Video: MIN@WSH: Schmidt nets feed that redirects in

The Capitals left plenty of room for improvement when they host the Nashville Predators on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CSN-DC, FS-TN, NHL.TV). They led 3-0 after Evgeni Kuznetsov's power-play goal with 2:52 remaining in the second period, but let the Wild back in the game in the third.

After Matt Dumba scored 37 seconds into the third period to end Holtby's shutout bid, the Capitals continued a disturbing parade to the penalty box. Brett Connolly's interference minor at 2:32 was followed by a holding call against Backstrom at 3:43, giving the Wild a 5-on-3 power play for 49 seconds.

The Capitals killed off the two-man advantage, but Eric Staal scored a 5-on-4 goal at 4:37 to pull the Wild within 3-2. The Capitals were shorthanded seven times in the game despite vowing to cut down on their number of penalties after giving the Ducks five power plays on Sunday.

They were fortunate the Wild, who have lost four of their past five, are working through their own problems. A poor line change by the Wild created an opening for Jay Beagle to score from the left circle and gave the Capitals a 4-2 lead with 5:41 remaining.

"They played quick, but we did too and I think it made for a good game, two good teams," Holtby said. "There's still things we want to work on, but that's a lot better than we've been playing."

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