- - Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Washington Capitals scored two power-play goals and Nicklas Backstrom drained an overtime goal to earn a 4-3 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues Sunday, the team’s ninth straight win at Capital One Arena.

The home winning streak dates back to Dec. 2 and is the longest by any NHL team this season. Washington stays in the Metropolitan Division lead with 55 points.

Alex Ovechkin tallied two points by scoring his 27th goal of the year on a third-period power play and assisting the game’s first goal. Braden Holtby made 31 saves in the win and is now 6-0-0 against the Blues in his career.

T.J. Oshie, after going five straight games without a point, assisted the Capitals‘ last two goals, including the OT winner.

Seven of the Capitals‘ last nine games have gone to overtime. Washington has won four of those seven. Coach Barry Trotz said every standings point his team can squeeze out of overtime matters because the division will be “a battle right to the end.”

“I’m looking at the standings every day and I’m like, ‘I have no idea who’s in, who’s out,’” Trotz said. “You have a good streak and you’re right in the mix. You have two bad days or two bad games and you find yourself dropping three or four spots.”

Washington struck first in the game, 13:15 into the first period, thanks to a pair of St. Louis holding penalties. The Capitals only got one shot off on the first power play. But during the second, John Carlson found Ovechkin on the left, and Brett Connolly tipped in Ovechkin’s wrister.

But one of the Blues‘ top point-getters pulled them ahead early in the second. Just a minute into the period, Vladimir Tarasenko put the puck past Holtby’s right shoulder to draw St. Louis even. Ivan Barbashev and Joel Edmundson were credited with assists.

After Dmitry Orlov was called for hooking a few minutes later, Tarasenko sent a behind-the-back pass to Alex Pietrangelo at the line, which set up a play for Brayden Schenn to shoot. Alexander Steen tipped Schenn’s one-timer and was later credited with the goal.

St. Louis dominated puck possession for the first 10 minutes of the period and got off 11 shots before Washington even took its first shot nine minutes and 30 seconds into the frame.

Ovechkin kept coming close. He led a two-on-one chance with Devante Smith-Pelly, but hesitated a second too long when deciding to pass the puck, and the Capitals couldn’t get a shot off. Later, Ovechkin tripped while on the attack and hoisted a shot wide left while still on his knees.

Trotz later said that in the second period, the Capitals “made the game way, way, way tougher than we needed to.

“We gave up way too many scoring chances, turnovers. I think we had four or five what I’d call fairly blatant turnovers in the first three and a half minutes of the second period,” Trotz said. “Those turn into offensive chances.”

But, he added, he liked his players’ response in the third period.

Momentum moved back in the Capitals‘ favor early in the last frame thanks to some better-looking shots, but it wasn’t until their next power-play opportunity when they got back on the board.

Coming out of a faceoff after Jay Bouwmeester was whistled for tripping, Carlson and Backstrom directed the puck to Ovechkin, whose one-timer found the net just three seconds into the power play.

Washington regained the lead three minutes later with its first even-strength score of the game. Lars Eller put back a deflected Oshie shot, and Madison Bowey earned the second assist on the play. But with four minutes left in regulation, the Blues‘ Carl Gunnarsson sent in a shot from the blue line and the puck bounced through the crowd at the crease and into the net.

The puck bounced off Ovechkin’s back on its way in, Holtby later confirmed.

The overtime period saw only a few shots taken. But in the final minute, Oshie sent a long pass up the rink to Backstrom, who had open ice in front of him. He put his shot over goalie Carter Hutton in the top-left corner.

“I was just going. I knew the pass was coming,” Backstrom said. “Nice to get a breakaway, for once. Nice to score too.”

It was Backstrom’s 197th career goal, tying him with Alexander Semin for fifth on the franchise’s all-time goals list.

The goal wouldn’t have been possible without Oshie’s cross-rink set-up pass. Trotz said he noticed more of Oshie’s “doggedness” come through as the game went on.

“He hounds pucks, he keeps plays alive. Very intelligent player,” Trotz said. “He knew exactly what he was doing on Lars’ goal. He was gonna play that off the pad. I just thought, that was the old Osh.”

This was Washington’s first game since a Jan. 2 overtime win at Carolina, and the players did not want to come out rusty.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to get better at, playing with a few days rest,” Holtby said. “In some ways we did better, in some ways we didn’t.”

“We have a day off and we have a hard practice, but the game is a different speed,” Ovechkin said. “More energy, more kind of dirty plays out there.”

While the Capitals had a break, the Blues played a four-game week and faced Washington in the second game of an East Coast back-to-back.

The Capitals host Vancouver on Tuesday and play a home-and-home back-to-back with Carolina Thursday and Friday.


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