- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Ottawa Senators own the worst record in the NHL. They entered Tuesday’s game 3-11-0 in their previous 14. And they dealt away their three top assets before Monday’s trade deadline to accumulate draft picks and build for a better tomorrow.

It should have been easy pickings for the Washington Capitals. But early on, the defending Stanley Cup champs looked doomed.

The Capitals overcame another sluggish start to beat the Senators 7-2 at home, scoring seven unanswered goals after giving up two in the first 7:10 of the game.

T.J. Oshie led with two goals, becoming the second Capital to reach 20 for the year. Tom Wilson, Lars Eller, John Carlson, Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov also got in on the scoring action.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov each recorded two assists. Braden Holtby needed to make just 21 saves.

Eller and Oshie felt the team finally turned it on around the 10-minute mark of the opening period.

“I think it was Backy’s line that had good shift in the offensive zone, created some momentum and just kind of woke us up,” Eller said. “From there on we just kept our foot on the gas for the rest of the game, didn’t let up, played a lot better. The first 10 minutes, that wasn’t us.”

“It didn’t look like the boys were too interested to start the game, but a good response,” Oshie said. “Not only the goals after we got down two, but the style of play I think picked up.”

Coupled with the New York Islanders’ loss Tuesday, the Capitals (36-21-7, 79 points) tied the Isles in standings points atop the Metropolitan Division. Those clubs face off Friday on Long Island.

The Senators got off to their surprisingly hot start courtesy of two players who just joined them as trade returns. First, Oscar Lindberg tapped in a back-door goal behind Holtby, and Anthony Duclair followed that up with a power-play tally.

Ottawa continued to out-class Washington until late in the first, when Wilson and Eller drew the Capitals even with a pair of tic-tac-toe goals.

“We did what you can’t do against a team like that. … Two freebies and that’s all they needed,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “After that, they became the Stanley Cup champions and rolled over us in that second period, for sure.”

The Capitals poured on four more in the second, including Oshie’s two. Capitals coach Todd Reirden later said he twice tried to coax Oshie to play on different lines late in the third, in an effort to get a hat trick, but Oshie wasn’t interested in the individual glory.

Kuznetsov left the bench late in the second period when a puck caught him on the hand — but not only did he return to start the third, he scored on the first shift of the period with a smart backhand assist from Ovechkin.

The game eventually petered out from there. The Senators remained stuck at a league-low 49 standings points, while the Capitals earned at least one point for the sixth straight home game (5-0-1 in that span).

The win, Washington’s fourth in the last five games overall, created more separation between the Capitals and division foes Carolina, Pittsburgh and Columbus below them.

“The division is tight. It’s really tight around that last playoff spot,” Eller said. “Teams are pushing from behind, playing for their lives. We’ve got a divisional game coming up here (against the Islanders) that’s going to be huge and everybody’s fighting for their lives.”

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