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game recap

Ovechkin gets 500th assist, 30th goal, helps Capitals top Panthers

Washington ends three-game losing streak

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Alex Ovechkin got his 500th NHL assist when the Washington Capitals defeated the Florida Panthers 4-2 at BB&T Center on Thursday.

Ovechkin, who also scored his League-leading 30th goal, became the fourth active player with 500 goals and 500 assists. He joined Jaromir Jagr of the Calgary Flames (766 goals, 1,155 assists), Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks (525 goals, 609 assists) and Patrick Marleau of the Toronto Maple Leafs (524 goals, 583 assists).

"Anytime you reach something, it's pretty cool," Ovechkin said. 

Ovechkin joined Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky as the only players in NHL history with 30 or more goals in each of their first 13 seasons. He joined Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom (568) as the only players in Capitals history with 500 assists.

Video: WSH@FLA: Ovi earns 500th assist on Backstrom's PPG

"It's awesome," Backstrom said of Ovechkin's 500th assist. "It's great. I've been playing with him for a long time and I'm just happy for him. He's a great hockey player. He can do it all. I think it's just a nice milestone for him. A lot of guys see him as a goal scorer, but he's a good passer, too."

Ovechkin assisted on Backstrom's power-play goal in the first period. John Carlson and Brett Connolly each scored, and Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for Washington (29-15-5), which ended a three-game losing streak. Kuznetsov left the game midway through the third period with a lower-body injury.

Braden Holtby made 32 saves for the Capitals.

Washington, which had been 0-1-2 since its five-day break, won for the first time since Jan. 12. 

"We had a good week of practice," Carlson said. "We finally started feeling good, now we take another break (for the All-Star Game). We'll have practice when we get back and right back at it. There'll be no time to wait around and give ourselves a couple games to feel good. We've got to come back and start playing real well right away. The season is coming down to the wire and all these points mean so much."

Denis Malgin scored twice for the Panthers (19-22-6), who lost their third in a row and are 2-6-1 since their season-best five-game winning streak. 

Video: WSH@FLA: Malgin wires home opening goal from the slot

Harri Sateri made 42 saves for Florida in his second NHL start, seven of them coming on Washington's two-minute, 5-on-3 power play early in the third period.

"He held his own," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "It's tough. We've got to get more scoring for him."

After Washington killed off three penalties in the first 10:35, Malgin gave Florida a 1-0 lead at 11:02 of the first period. He picked up a loose puck near the top of the left circle and beat Holtby with a wrist shot to the blocker side through a screen.

Backstrom tied it at 17:25 of the first when he scored on Kuznetsov's pass across the crease after Ovechkin fed Kuznetsov.

Malgin made it 2-1 at 6:40 of the second before Ovechkin tied it at 7:51 when he tipped Brooks Orpik's wrist shot from the point.

Carlson gave Washington a 3-2 lead at 17:38 of the second when he one-timed Tom Wilson's pass in the slot.

Connolly made it 4-2 at 1:52 of the third period with a power-play goal.

"We had a tough start," Backstrom said. "We had a lot of penalties. It was nice to see us battle back. When you've been losing three games, it's always nice to get on the winning track again."

Video: WSH@FLA: Connolly buries one-timer from Burakovsky


Goal of the game

Carlson's goal at 17:38 of the second period.

Video: WSH@FLA: Kuznetsov, Wilson set up Carlson's one-timer


Save of the game

Holtby's pad save against Nick Bjugstad at 10:45 of the second period.

Video: WSH@FLA: Holtby pads away Bjugstad's wrister in close


Highlight of the game

Ovechkin's goal at 7:51 of the second period.

Video: WSH@FLA: Ovi scores 30th goal on terrific deflection


They said it

"We managed the puck. We put it into areas and we had real close support to the puck. Guys were coming to the puck when guys needed support. We had some good movement. We had some really good looks. We were teeing it up pretty good. Their goaltender made some real good saves. I thought it was a pretty complete game by our team." -- Capitals coach Barry Trotz

"It's frustrating for everybody. It's never fun losing and we're battling some adversity with our goaltenders (Roberto Luongo and James Reimer) out. We can get some rest over the next couple days and come back fresher." -- Panthers coach Bob Boughner

Need to know

The Capitals had a season-high 46 shots, including a game-high 10 by Carlson. … NHL officials reviewed Ovechkin's goal after the game to make sure Orpik's shot didn't go off the stick of Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad. A scoring change would have ended his goal drought, which is at 149 games. He last scored Feb. 26, 2016. … Panthers forward Jamie McGinn left in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return.


What's next

Capitals: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday (8 p.m., NBCSN, NHL.TV)

Panthers: At the New York Islanders on Tuesday (7 p.m., MSG+, FS-F, NHL.TV)


Video: Ovechkin's milestone night leads Caps past Panthers


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