WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals entered the third period Wednesday night with key players injured, missing good scoring chances and trailing by a goal.
Then Alex Ovechkin scored twice during a four-goal rally and the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 to extend their winning streak to nine games and overtake the Dallas Stars for the NHL points lead.
“Tonight, you saw some backbone when it was needed,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “It (was) an opportunity for guys to step up and they did. There (weren’t) any excuses.”
The four-goal third period came after the team lost forward Jay Beagle to an upper-body injury and center Nicklas Backstrom to an unspecific injury in the second period.
Beagle will undergo surgery and miss significant time. Backstrom’s injury was not disclosed and he could play Thursday at the Carolina Hurricanes.
Washington was already playing without top defenseman John Carlson, out with a lower-body injury.
Despite that, the Capitals turned around Buffalo’s 2-1 lead quickly.
“We are pretty relentless as a team,” Washington goalie Braden Holtby said. “(Obviously, the injuries) makes it tougher. Those guys play a huge role on our team but we are just going to have to find different ways to win if they are out.”
Trotz shifted Marcus Johansson from left wing to center and moved Evgeny Kuznetsov to center on the top line. Those adjustments paid off when Kuznetsov set up Ovechkin’s tying goal 1:24 into the third with a perfect pass, then fed Johansson for a redirect during a power play.
That goal put Washington ahead 8:32 into the final period, and Andre Burakovsky scored 1:24 later. Kuznetsov had two assists during the third period, which also saw Ovechkin add an empty-netter. Justin Williams had the Capitals’ other goal, in the second.
Washington improved to 28-6-2 and moved ahead of Dallas with 58 points.
Holtby finished with 25 saves and improved to 16-0-1 in his last 17 games.
Rangers 5, Lightning 2
In Tampa, Dominic Moore put New York ahead early in the third period, Dan Boyle had a goal and an assist and the Rangers ended an eight-game road losing streak.
Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves and moved past Rogie Vachon for 17th place on the NHL’s career wins list with 356.
Maple Leafs 3, Penguins 2 (SO)
In Pittsburgh, P.A. Parenteau and Peter Holland had goals in the shootout to help Toronto beat the hosts.
Parenteau won it by beating Matt Murray to the glove side with a wrist shot.
Devils 3, Senators 0
In Ottawa, Mike Cammalleri scored twice, Cory Schneider made 36 saves and New Jersey shut out the Senators.
Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond made 18 saves.
Sharks 4, Flyers 2
In San Jose, Joe Pavelski scored twice in the third period to help the Sharks snap a four-game home losing streak.