The Washington Capitals will look to continue their late-season surge when they visit the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night at Glendale, Ariz.
Despite a 4-3 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, the Capitals (43-23-11, 97 points) are 6-1-1 in their past eight games. They were neck and neck with the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division heading into Thursday’s action.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice against Vegas, giving him 50 goals for the season, and added an assist, his 40th. The Golden Knights scored twice early in the third period to take a 3-2 lead before Ovechkin tied it.
“The start of the third, we got away from our gameplan, myself included, of just going north of the puck, getting it in,” the Capitals’ Nick Jensen said. “We were doing that all night and they were turning it over and it was our advantage, but we got away from that the first couple shifts.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist and Ilya Samsonov made 26 saves for the Capitals. Kuznetsov has recorded a point in 20 of his past 22 games (nine goals, 18 assists).
Ovechkin tied Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky with his ninth career 50-goal season, the most in NHL history. The forward now has 780 goals for his career, just 21 behind Gordie Howe (801) for second place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has eight goals in his past eight games.
“I thought he played really hard out here tonight,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “And he really set the example for our team. Amazing accomplishment, 50 goals again. I think as a more veteran player, being able to accomplish that where he is in his career right now as well, is pretty special.”
The Coyotes (22-49-6, 50 points) are ending the season the same way they began it — with a losing streak. Arizona, which opened the season 0-10-1, has lost eight straight (0-7-1) with five games remaining.
After losing six straight games by four or more goals, the Coyotes have improved this week, starting a four-game homestand with a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday before rallying from a 3-1 deficit in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
“That’s two games in a row we have battled back,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “The start was not good but between the leadership we had in the room-between the first and the second-and the character of our older players, they really dug in and dug in.”
Nathan Smith scored his first NHL goal and Karel Vejmelka made 36 saves for the Coyotes, who have been outscored 47-13 in their past eight games. Andrew Ladd had an assist in his 1,000th NHL regular-season game.
Smith and Anton Stralman scored third period goals to force overtime. Nick Schmaltz had two assists, snapping a three-game pointless skid. He set a new career high of 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists). Phil Kessel also had two assists.
“I thought it was good for our younger players to see how the older guys dug in and competed and were real pros,” Tourigny said. “It’s just unfortunate we lost.”
Arizona’s Jay Beagle left the game in the first period because of a lower-body injury and did not return. Nick Ritchie remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
–Field Level Media