Alex Ovechkin's teammates did just fine without their star right wing. But after sitting out for two games with a shoulder injury, he wanted in on the fun, too.
Ovechkin scored two goals on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders and the Capitals cruised to a 6-2 victory at Verizon Center.
Washington has now won six of its last eight games and a lethal power play continues to torment the opposition. The Caps scored on four of their six power-play attempts and that unit is now up to 27.9 percent on the season.
Washington scored nine goals without Ovechkin in games against Philadelphia and Florida. Its attack continued clicking at a ferocious pace with goals from five different players. But it was Ovechkin's performance that was most scrutinized. He was injured, after all, in a 3-2 loss at Vancouver on Oct. 28.
But it was just two games off and little rust showed. Ovechkin scored a pair of power-play goals a shade under 13 minutes apart in the second period. In between his team took control of the contest with goals from Marcus Johansson and John Carlson.
"Alex is like any of the other 23 guys we have in here," said goalie Braden Holtby, who earned the win with 34 saves on 36 shots. "Everyone means the same in the long run. A lot was made of him of him being out of the lineup, but that's just a player that we have to battle without. We did a good job when he was gone, but it is nice to have him back."
Still, this is a three-time Hart Trophy winner the Caps added to the lineup and a player who tilts the ice towards him at even strength, let alone with a man advantage. Ovechkin now has 12 goals and trails only St. Louis Blues forward Alex Steen, who scored his 13th on Tuesday night.
Half of those goals have come on the power play. That's exactly what happened last season when 16 of Ovechkin's 32 goals came with the man advantage.
"Obviously, being such a weapon the way he can shoot the puck adds a huge variable," Oates said. "But even the past two games, our power play clicks almost all the time. We talk about it all the time. We stop ourselves. We should be in a position that we should feel on a given night we stop ourselves, they don't stop us."
Ovechkin also contributed an assist on rookie Tom Wilson's first NHL goal with 4:01 left to play. He now has 18 points in 13 games this season, tied for sixth in the league. And his team finally crept above the .500 mark at 8-7. The Caps are alone in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 16 points after jumping New York.
"A couple days off, a couple breaks and I feel pretty good," Ovechkin said.
And breaks have usually treated Ovechkin well over the years even if they are due to an injury. Ten times in his career, Ovechkin has returned to the ice after missing a game or more due to injury. In those contests he has eight goals and two assists.
Ovechkin saw 18:41 of ice time on the night. That's down from his usual 21 minutes per game, but not unusual in a game that was really out of reach for the Islanders by the start of the third period with the score 5-2. New York didn't score over the final 35:22 of the game. By then Ovechkin had done his damage.
"Teams know what they're going to do, but they do a good job executing and we broke down on some details tonight," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "They've got weapons up top in [defenseman Mike Green] and [Ovechkin] and on that weak side. It's not like we don't know what they're doing, but you have to execute."
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