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Ovechkin's 32nd goal gives Capitals win vs. Senators

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin scored 49 seconds apart in the second period, and some strong penalty killing in the third gave the Washington Capitals a 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.

The Capitals (27-15-10) have won two games in a row for the first time since Jan. 12-14 and will try to solidify their hold on a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

They hold the first wild-card spot.

Washington killed three straight penalties in the first seven minutes of the third period to hang onto the lead.

Goaltender Braden Holtby made 25 saves, including some big ones with the Capitals shorthanded, for his 25th win.

"It was a good effort by the boys. It was a tough situation, but a good response, a good kill by everybody," Ovechkin said of the string of penalties. "[Holtby] made a huge save and the guys sacrificed their bodies to block shots and keep the lead."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, "I think those guys take a lot of pride in the penalty kill, and you knew the game was kind of hanging on what they were going to do, especially when you get the third one in a row.

"You’ve dodged the bullet, once, twice, and the third one we did it."

The Senators (20-21-9) are 4-7-2 in their past 13 games and fading in the battle for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Robin Lehner, starting his fourth consecutive game with No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson out with a hand injury, made 27 saves.

The Senators opened the scoring on Kyle Turris’ first goal since Jan. 4, a stretch of 12 games, after he finished a sequence of sustained pressure by Ottawa.

The lead lasted 1:13 and the Senators again surrendered some quick goals after scoring, a trend that has hurt them this season.

"I think that’s something we’ve been struggling with. We score a goal then we get away from our game, start playing a little fancy," Lehner said.

"It’s frustrating, because it’s such a fine line between good teams and average teams in this league, and it’s just how consistent can you do things every shift, every game. We’re not doing it every shift. Small details are hurting us. You can’t let down like that, you can’t have lapses. That cost us the game."

Turris said the Senators' tendency to give up the lead has been discussed, but there hasn’t been improvement.

"We take a lead, I guess we can be more vocal on the bench about staying focused and staying on top of things," he said. "But we’re professionals. We know that we can’t just let up once we get a lead. It’s the NHL. You can’t take things for granted. It cost us tonight."

The Capitals took advantage of a couple of bounces on their goals. Kuznetsov scored from near the goal line to Lehner’s left off a shot by defenseman Brooks Orpik that bounced off a crowd in front of Lehner.

Ovechkin gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead with his 32nd goal at 14:17, showing great body control and hand-eye coordination. As he battled for position in front of the net with Senators captain Erik Karlsson, Ovechkin got his stick on a knee-high puck directed at the goal by Jay Beagle and batted it into the net.

"It was just a couple of lucky bounces and a kind of baseball swing. I’ll take it," said Ovechkin, who tied Rick Nash of the New York Rangers for the NHL lead.

It was one of a few incidents between the two captains. After a quiet first period, Ovechkin’s hard check on Karlsson into the boards 30 seconds into the second led to a scrum.

Senators forward Bobby Ryan went after Ovechkin, who got Ryan in a headlock and wrestled him to the ice.

Ovechkin was penalized for charging 20 seconds into the third period when he hit Karlsson into the boards.

It was the first of three-straight penalties to the Capitals to start the third period. Brooks Laich went off for tripping at 2:25 and defenseman Mike Green was penalized for hooking at 5:08.

"We watched a lot of video so we were well aware of what they wanted to do with the one lefty and four righties set up for one-timers there," Orpik said. "I thought we did a real good job of identifying the dangerous guys, and when they did get good looks we got good blocks from guys and [Holtby] made a couple of big saves for us."

Holtby said, "It’s not a situation you want to be in, but our penalty killers did a phenomenal job on those three and the one before that too. We battled through it. That’s a long time for those guys to be on the ice. Hard minutes. They won that game for us."

The Capitals finish a stretch of seven games in 11 days against the Anaheim Ducks at home on Friday.

The Senators recognized veteran defenseman Chris Phillips in a ceremony before the game as the franchise leader in games played with 1,179, moving him past former captain Daniel Alfredsson.

There was a video tribute before the game and Senators general manager Bryan Murray, along with Alfredsson and former teammate Wade Redden, presented Phillips with a Senators jersey with the number 1179 on the back.

"It was a great day, great couple of days leading up to it. Obviously the presentation, the acknowledgment from the fans, everything about that was top-notch," Phillips said. "[I] really appreciate it. It would have been a little bit sweeter with a victory tonight."

The Senators host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

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