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game recap

Ovechkin's 40th helps Capitals rally past Wild

Ties game early in third, Orlov scores game-winner

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- No matter how many goals Alex Ovechkin scores, his teammates still get a thrill out of watching him put the puck in the net.

That was the case Friday, when Ovechkin scored his League-leading 40th goal of the season and the Washington Capitals rallied to defeat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 at Verizon Center.

"That's just incredible," center Nicklas Backstrom said of Ovechkin, his longtime linemate. "He never stops impressing me. We're happy for him. He's a big key for this team, so hopefully he can just keep it going."

Ovechkin reached the 40-goal mark for the eighth time in his 11 NHL seasons. It's the sixth time he's the first player in the NHL to reach 40 goals in a season. Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito are the only other players to be the first to reach 40 goals in six different seasons.

"I say it all the time; every year it's harder and harder to score goals in this League," Ovechkin said. "If you get 40 goals, you get lucky and you get rewarded for it."

Video: MIN@WSH: Ovechkin ties the game on PPG in the 3rd

After Ovechkin tied the game 2-2 with a power-play goal 4:35 into the third period, defenseman Dmitri Orlov got the game-winner with 5:04 to play. Defenseman Brooks Orpik scored in the second period and Braden Holtby made 30 saves for Washington (45-11-4).

"I thought in the first period we weren't really engaged," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Credit to them, they sort of found a way to get it going a little bit in the second and in the third. It was almost like watching how not to play, how to play a little bit better and then play well. Hopefully we learned a little bit today. "

Orlov broke a 2-2 tie when his backhand shot banked off the skate of goaltender Darcy Kuemper and went into the net for his seventh goal of the season.

"Starting the season, we needed someone [on defense] to replace Mike Green, and that was Orlov," Trotz said. "I think offensively he's doing that part. There's a lot of positive things to say about [Orlov]. Once we got it tied up, I felt pretty sure we were going to win the hockey game."

Video: MIN@WSH: Orlov gives Capitals the lead late in 3rd

The Capitals' 45 wins are tied for the most by a team through 60 games of a season in NHL history, matching the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings. Washington is also the first team to earn 94 points in its first 60 games since Detroit did it in 1995-96.

Forwards Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter scored for Minnesota (27-25-10), which has lost three in a row after winning its first four games under interim coach John Torchetti. Kuemper made 24 saves in his first career start against the Capitals.

"That's the game of hockey," Torchetti said. "We've got to do a better job and we've got to get that save when we need it there. We can't let it get us down, we've just got to keep battling and be ready for Florida."

The Wild host the Panthers on Sunday, the same day the Capitals visit the Chicago Blackhawks (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN).

Video: MIN@WSH: Koivu opens up the scoring for the Wild

Koivu scored a power-play goal with 42 seconds remaining in the first period to put the Wild up 1-0. His wrist shot from the top of the right circle deflected off the stick of Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner and past Holtby. The goal was Koivu's 13th of the season.

"We're not happy with how we started the game two games in a row," Ovechkin said. "We just have to fix it and we have a group of guys here in the locker room to make a change and we have to realize in future we can't play only two periods."

The Capitals have been plagued by sluggish starts; they have allowed the first goal in seven consecutive games and in 14 of their past 17.

"I think we have to simplify things in the beginning," Backstrom said. "Do the things we're good at; cycling the puck, more shots, more traffic in front of the net. I think that's a key to having a good start. That's not going to work in the playoffs. You're playing teams that can really shut you down then. We're talking about it every day and we need to get better at it. We were really lucky today.

Video: MIN@WSH: Suter sets up Neiderreiter for a nice score

Orpik tied the game 49 seconds into the second period when his shot from the right circle deflected off Wild defenseman Marco Scandella and went past Kuemper for his third of the season. Orpik has six points in his past six games, and his three goals are an NHL career high.

Niederreiter gave the Wild the lead again at 5:05. On a breakaway, Niederreiter beat Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney to the net and scored his 12th of the season. He has six points in his past seven games.

Ovechkin tied the game with a one-timer from the left circle.

"I saw him, just tried to get as much ice as I can," Kuemper said of Ovechkin's goal. "Probably should have been a little more patient, but when you see him [Ovechkin] winding up, you try to get as big as you can."

Capitals defenseman John Carlson did not play because of an upper-body injury.

Video: Ovechkin leads Capitals in comeback win over Wild

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