Ovechkin breaks drought as Caps edge ‘Canes

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RALEIGH, N.C. | Alex Ovechkin charged out of the tunnel for the pre-game skate and immediately whacked a puck into an empty net.

His first goal in nearly three weeks finally came on a play nearly that easy.

Ovechkin scored a goal to end an eight-game drought and added an assist for the Washington Capitals, who held on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Sunday night.

“He finally got a bounce that went in his direction,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Mathieu Perreault and David Steckel also scored for the Capitals, who have won three of four, have earned points in four straight and swept the Hurricanes on their home ice for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

“Our division’s pretty tough, so any game within the division, coming out with two points is huge for us,” Steckel said. “Especially a game after two days off. We wanted to come out and make sure we’re doing the right things and keep kind of the ball we’ve got rolling. I know we lost last game, but it’s indicative of the way we’re playing. If we keep playing like this, good things are going to happen.”

Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen each had a goal and an assist, and Cam Ward made 27 saves for the Hurricanes, who have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.

Ruutu pulled the Hurricanes within one goal 30 seconds into the third period by deflecting in Jay Harrison’s slap shot. But Carolina came up empty on two power plays after that while Semyon Varlamov then stopped the final six shots he faced, finishing with 33 saves to help Washington improve to 4-0 in the season series.

“We just kind of have to execute a little better, get better chances,” Ruutu said. “I don’t think we got enough shots. I don’t think we got any. … We had enough chances to at least tie or win this game.”

Ovechkin, who hadn’t scored since Dec. 6, made a heady play midway through the second that led directly to the go-ahead goal. He took the puck away near center ice, brought it across the blue line and around defenseman Jamie McBain before dishing off to Steckel, who beat Ward with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 with 9:34 left.

Then came the end to that goal drought later in the period. Ovechkin hammered a rebound into an open net at 1:58 to make it 3-1, giving him his first multipoint game since Nov. 26 and prevent him from matching a career-worst with a ninth straight game without a goal.

“He’s been working so hard, and not getting bounces,” teammate Mike Green said. “Even that shot, it bounced, and he just had the right hand-eye coordination. Maybe in the past, it would have missed or something, and that would have been our luck. But it was big for him to get one today.”

Steckel’s goal came about 3 minutes after Jokinen tied it at 1 by catching the Capitals on a line change. He finished off a 2-on-1 break with a snap shot that beat Varlamov.

Perreault put Washington up 1-0 with about 6½ minutes left in the first period when he tapped in Alexander Semin’s no-look centering pass. Perreault left the game for good about 5 minutes later after a bloody collision in the corner with Tim Gleason. That precipitated a brief fight between the Carolina defenseman and Capitals enforcer Matt Hendricks.

Boudreau said Perreault broke his nose and is day to day. Gleason was given a 5-minute charging penalty and was ejected.

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