WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin shook off the kind of big hit he’s used to delivering and scored the kind of timely, clutch goals he has built his career on.
Ovechkin scored two rebound goals in the final seven minutes to give the Washington Capitals their seventh consecutive victory by coming back to beat the New York Rangers 2-1 on Friday night.
A hit from big Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren that leveled Ovechkin and broke his stick maybe only woke up one of hockey’s greatest goal-scorers, who again showed he can put the puck in the net every which way.
“Sometimes you have to get those really gritty ones,” Ovechkin said. “It’s still the same whether it’s goal from my spot or whatever. It’s most important goal, and it’ll take it.”
Ovechkin tied it with 6:42 left by poking a loose puck past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and put the Capitals ahead on a nearly identical play with 3:33 remaining. He has scored in five in a row and has seven goals in the past seven games.
“He has a great determination to get to the front of the net and get the puck in,” said defenseman Justin Schultz, who took the initial shot that led to Ovechkin’s first goal. “He was huge for us tonight.”
Washington’s longtime captain now leads the team with 14 goals. After moving into sole possession of sixth place on the NHL career goals list earlier in the week, Ovechkin’s goals against the Rangers were Nos. 719 and 720, moving him closer to Marcel Dionne in fifth.
“He’s a Hall of Famer that’s always finding ways to score,” said acting Rangers coach Kris Knoblauch, who ran the bench for a second consecutive game with David Quinn and his staff unavailable because of NHL COVID protocol.
Ovechkin’s late-game heroics kept the Capitals winning streak alive after a lackluster first 50 minutes. They had only 12 shots on net before the play that led to his tying goal, and New York was cruising toward a second consecutive shutout victory.
Instead, Vitek Vanecek could celebrate his 13th victory of the season after stopping 32 shots. New York’s only goal came on the power play when Artemi Panarin scored his eighth of the season.
“We liked he way we played for the most part,” Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba said. “We had a couple rebounds in front in the last (seven) minutes. It’s tough to lose that way.”
Panarin has three goals and four assists for a four-game point streak since returning from a two-week leave of absence. Georgiev allowed just those two goals to Ovechkin on 18 shots in the loss.
While Washington players jawed at Lindgren plenty after his open-ice hit on Ovechkin midway through the second period, Ovechkin himself had no issues with it.
“It was a great hit,” Ovechkin said. “He hit my stick. It got broken. It was a good hit. It’s hockey.”
No problem from the Rangers’ side, either.
“It’s just their team standing up for their star player,” Knoblauch said. “He wasn’t targeting a star player or head hunting or anything like that. He was just playing the way that Lindy does.”
WILSON ALMOST BACK
Capitals winger Tom Wilson is now done serving his seven-game suspension for boarding Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo on March 5. It was his fifth NHL suspension but first since fall of 2018.
“I have to continue to adjust, and I think the game is always adapting year to year,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, it can’t happen. I can’t be missing seven games. I can’t be missing one game. I’ve got to be in the lineup.”
Wilson was one of Washington’s best players all around this season before getting suspended, with seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 21 games. Winning all seven games without him was nice, but coach Peter Laviolette said the Capitals miss Wilson’s presence.
“He brings so much to our team — just his energy, to have him in the room and on the bench with his size and his game and his physicality,” Laviolette said. “We’re certainly going to be happy to see him back.”
The Rangers reported that goaltender Igor Shesterkin skated Friday morning and remains day to day with a strained groin. Keith Kinkaid backed up Georgiev while Shesterkin missed his eighth consecutive game since getting injured March 4.
ELEVEN AND SIX
Without Wilson and center Lars Eller, who missed a third consecutive game with a lower-body injury, the Capitals dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen because they don’t have the salary cap space to recall another forward. Despite defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk being in uniform, he didn’t skate a single shift and has racked up a total of 7:51 of ice time in the past three games.
These teams face off again Saturday night in Washington.
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