Alex Ovechkin moved one step closer to 700 career goals on Thursday and will try to join that club when the Washington Capitals meet the Devils in a Saturday matinee in New Jersey.
Ovechkin had not recorded a goal or a point in his past five games before scoring Washington’s first goal in a 4-3 overtime loss against visiting Montreal. That was his 41st goal of the season and goal No. 699 of his career.
He had a few more good chances to score, especially late in the third period, but Montreal goalie Carey Price stopped him each time. Still, Washington’s recent defensive problems continued, even with the acquisition of veteran defenseman Brenden Dillon.
The Capitals allowed two breakaways in the first five minutes, and goalie Braden Holtby turned them away. Plus, there were a number of other good chances for Montreal, and Ben Chiarot had plenty of room on his game-winner 58 seconds into overtime.
“It’s just a continuation of the struggle that we’re going through right now,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said on the team’s website. “We make some strides in certain directions that are positive, and then we fail in other areas. It’s no secret; we’re going through a struggle right now. We didn’t play well enough to be able to get two points really against any team in this league. We need to play better.”
Washington did get one point to pull into a tie with Pittsburgh for first place in the Metropolitan Division, but the Capitals have gone just 1-4-1 in their past six games.
The good news for Washington was the debut of Dillon, who was put in the top defensive pairing with John Carlson, and the return of Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had missed the previous three games with an upper-body injury and got an assist when Tom Wilson scored with 20.1 seconds left to tie the game and force overtime.
The Devils are coming off of a 2-1 victory at home over San Jose on Thursday — their third consecutive victory in New Jersey — thanks to a tiebreaking goal by P.K. Subban early in the final period.
Jesper Bratt scored the other New Jersey goal in the win. That came in the second period after San Jose had taken a 1-0 lead, but the Devils scored the game’s final two goals.
The win moved New Jersey to 5-3-2 in their past 10 games.
A big reason for the team’s recent success has been the strong play of goalie Mackenzie Blackwood. He’s now won in his past five appearances, and the victory over the Sharks was the 30th of his young NHL career — which began with the Devils last season.
“If you said in a year you’ll have 30 career wins, I mean I would be ecstatic,” Blackwood told the team’s website after making his 36 saves. “I mean, I don’t know if I would have believed you but, it’s great. It’s been fun. It’s been a process, coming to the rink every day working on your game, trying to get better. It’s been good so far.”
On the injury front, Nicholas Merkley (face) and Will Butcher (upper-body injury) remain day-to-day, and their statuses had not been updated as of Friday morning.
–Field Level Media