ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - With the Anaheim Ducks bearing down on him all night, Jaroslav Halak couldn’t relax for even a moment in front of the Washington Capitals‘ net until the horn sounded on another victory.
None of the Caps can afford to take many more breathers if they hope to make it back to the postseason.
Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer also scored for the Capitals, who have won three straight to pull into an eighth-place tie with Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They barely held off the Ducks, who threw 45 shots at Halak and pressed right up to the final seconds.
“We can’t worry about anything else that’s going to happen except for our games,” said Halak, who made 43 saves in his sixth consecutive start. “Right now, two points are all huge, any way we can get them.”
The Caps haven’t trailed during their winning streak. But even after Ovechkin scored his 46th goal early in a power play, they were in a nail-biter against Anaheim.
“That was a huge game,” Ovechkin said. “We prepared for it, and we were ready for it. We played one of the best teams in the league.”
Ovechkin’s goal was just the second in seven games for last season’s NHL MVP, but the Capitals need every goal and victory possible on their three-game California road trip. The Blue Jackets and Detroit, one point back in ninth place, both have two games in hand on Washington.
Ben Lovejoy and Mathieu Perreault scored for the Ducks, who have lost four straight home games while falling out of first place in the overall NHL standings.
Anaheim is still near the top of the Western Conference playoff race, but San Jose has caught the Ducks atop the Pacific Division standings. The teams meet Thursday at the Shark Tank.
“I think we had a lot of looks and were shooting the puck, but we weren’t getting to any loose pucks,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You can make a million and one excuses, but we’re just not getting the job done.”
Washington hadn’t visited Honda Center since Feb. 16, 2011, nine months before the Capitals fired Boudreau, who was hired by Anaheim two days later.
“This was a big one for Bruce, and we all knew it,” Lovejoy said. “I think we came out with a lot of passion. When we’re skating and playing tough hockey, we get our forecheck going, and we had that going tonight. We just weren’t able to put more than two in the net.”
Ward got his 21st goal on a fat rebound just 2:11 in, scoring in his third consecutive game. Lovejoy tied it 59 seconds later on an unobstructed slap shot set up by a terrible Washington line change.