Jue. Abr 18th, 2024

CALGARY, Alberta — Alex Ovechkin scored twice, becoming the third player in NHL history to have at least 20 goals in 19 consecutive seasons and lifting the Washington Capitals past the Calgary Flames 5-2 on Monday night in a critical game in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.

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The 38-year-old Ovechkin had two power-play goals in the second period as Washington won its third straight game. He joined Gordie Howe (22) and Brendan Shanahan (19) as the only players to achieve the goal-scoring feat.

Dylan Strome, Hendrix Lapierre and Tom Wilson also scored for Washington (33-25-9), which moved into the second wild-card spot in the East, one point ahead of the idle Detroit Red Wings. It’s the first time the Capitals have occupied a playoff spot since Jan. 2.

Kevin Rooney and MacKenzie Weegar scored for Calgary (33-30-5). The Flames finished 2-2-0 in a four-game homestand.

Washington goalie Charlie Lindgren had 34 saves and improved to 18-11-5. He has won five of his past six games with a .956 save percentage.

Calgary rookie Dustin Wolf allowed four goals on 32 shots in his third straight start and saw his record dip to 3-4-1. Wolf had allowed three goals on 67 shots in winning his past two games.

Ovechkin’s 20th goal of the season made it 2-0 at 5:58 of the second period. Ovechkin went to the net where he neatly deflected a hard centering pass from Max Pacioretty into the top corner. After pumping his arms in celebration, Ovechkin immediately looked over at Pacioretty and pointed, acknowledging the terrific pass.

«Consistency,» coach Spencer Carbery told reporters when asked about Ovechkin’s secret throughout his career. «Not just from the scoring part but also him being in the lineup and being durable and him being able to play game after game after game all these years.»

Just over three minutes later, Washington’s power play struck again. Ovechkin set up at the top of the faceoff circle, stick cocked. When John Carlson slid a pass across, Ovechkin leaned into a slap shot that beat Wolf inside the near post.

«We needed every single bit of those two goals tonight to get us in front and to be able to play from in front,» Carbery said, «because you could tell early on we had zero legs and mentally some of the puck decisions, plays, it was uncharacteristic.»

The Capitals, on their social media pages, posted Carbery’s postgame speech to his team in the locker room, where he lauded Ovechkin.

«The difference in the game? Power play,» he said, with his team clapping in the background. «[Ovechkin], with two huge goals.»

Ovechkin has 12 goals in 20 games since the All-Star break after scoring just nine times in 44 games before that. He raised his career goal total to 843, second to — and 51 behind — Wayne Gretzky. And in doing so with the team that drafted him, Ovechkin is the only player in NHL history to record the 19 consecutive 20-goal seasons from the start of his career.

«That’s a hell of a hockey player over there,» Wolf said of Ovechkin. «He had a couple of good chances. But it’s pretty cool to say you stopped a few.»

The Capitals have been helped in their playoff chase by a rejuvenated power play. On Jan. 18, Washington had the league’s third-worst power play at 13.3%. Over the past two months, including going 2-for-3 against Calgary, the Capitals have the league’s third-best power play at 29.1%.

Calgary briefly got back to within two goals at 10:41 of the second period on Rooney’s second goal of the season and first in 17 games.

But Lapierre scored four minutes later and restored the three-goal cushion at 4-1.

Weegar’s 16th of the season at 7:12 of the third — third best among NHL defensemen — got Calgary within two again, but that’s as close as the Flames could get.

Jacob Markstrom (lower body) is back skating and coach Ryan Huska said he could return to action as soon as this weekend. The veteran Flames goaltender has missed the past five games.

The Capitals will return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

«We know it’s not going to be easy. We keep fighting, keep playing,» Ovechkin said of gaining a playoff berth. «We still can do it. We’re still in the battle. Every point counts.»

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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