Thursday, Dec. 08, 2022 |
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Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) celebrate after an NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken, Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
WASHINGTON — When Alex Ovechkin lost the puck, Tom Wilson picked it up and finished off a highlight goal reminiscent of his younger days as an elite scorer.
Saturday night provided another reminder about how Ovechkin has been one for a long time — and he isn’t slowing down.
Ovechkin took another step toward tying Jaromir Jagr for third place on the NHL career goals list, picked up two assists for a three-point game and led the Washington Capitals past the Seattle Kraken 5-2 for their second consecutive win on the heels of three consecutive losses.
Washington’s longtime captain scored on the power play for a second consecutive game, his 34th goal of the season and 764th of his career. He’s two back of tying Jagr, one of only two players between him and Wayne Gretzky.
“It’s just nonstop,” said Wilson, who scored his 18th goal of the season. “He just has a drive that I’ve never seen before, and it shows in his game. He just keeps going, and he’s a machine. When he’s playing like that, you just try and complement him any way he can and get him the puck because he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
The Capitals have now won two in a row at home after losing their previous six games in Washington.
Conor Sheary had two goals, including an empty-netter, to reach 100 in his career and Dmitry Orlov also scored for Washington, which looks to have righted the ship after losing 14 of its first 22 games in 2022.
“We’re starting to see some good signs of the kind of hockey we want to play down the stretch here,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “There’s a lot of good things, a lot of good signs, but we’ve got to keep getting better and keep building. Not everything is perfect right now, but it’s going in the right direction.”
The Capitals looked like their early-season selves with the top line of Ovechkin, Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov clicking and Vitek Vanecek looking poised and confident in net. Vanecek made 29 saves, allowing goals only to Joonas Donskoi in the first period and Colin Blackwell 58 seconds into the second.
“He plays with a lot of confidence,” Sheary said of Vanecek. “It’s fun when he backstops us and makes big saves and gives us some momentum.”
Of course the climate around the U.S. capital has changed plenty since the fall, and there were small reminders inside and outside the arena of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A handful of demonstrators stood outside an entrance with a Ukrainian flag and a sign reading, “Ovechkin supports Putin,” while another from New Jersey held up a sign during warmups referencing the long connection between the Capitals captain and the Russian president.
The fan, who identified himself as Roman and said he was from Ukraine and currently lives in New Jersey, caught the attention of Kuznetsov, who appeared to be yelling toward him from the ice. A day after Capital One Arena clarified its policy that political signs are not allowed but flags can be brought in as long as they are not on sticks or poles, he was asked by security to put his poster away but did not have it confiscated.
Nothing more came of the demonstrations. Fans chanted, “Ovi! Ovi!” after his goal just as they did the other night and have countless times during his 17-year career as the face of the franchise.
Mark Giordano, the former face of the Calgary Flames franchise and now with Seattle, became the 364th player to skate in 1,000 regular-season NHL games.
“It was an up and down journey for me to get into this league, but I feel like I put a lot of hard work and a lot of years in and definitely a milestone that I’ve been looking forward to,” Giordano said. “I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, to be honest.”
The Kraken lost for the eighth time in nine games, but coach Dave Hakstol was not displeased with his team’s effort.
“This group hasn’t gone downhill,” Hakstol said. “They haven’t gone away. I liked the response. I really liked our work ethic throughout the entire 60 minutes.”
Kraken forward Jaden Schwartz played for the first time since Dec. 29 after undergoing hand surgery. … Capitals forward Axel Jonsson-Fjallby played his 10th game of the season after being recalled from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. He replaced Daniel Sprong in the lineup. … Members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association were honored throughout the night. The PWHPA is holding an event at the Capitals practice facility this weekend.
Kraken: Visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night in the second stop of their five-game Eastern Conference road trip.
Capitals: Begin their Western Canada swing at the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
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