Capitals keep hopes alive


Alex Ovechkin took his place in the NHL record book and helped the Washington Capitals keep pace in the playoff race.

Ovechkin became the 11th player in NHL history to score 50 or more goals in a season five times and added two assists as the Capitals beat the slumping St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Tuesday night. The two points give Washington 85, four behind Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Both the Blue Jackets and Capitals have three games left.

“We talked this morning about all we can do is control our situation,” Washington coach Adam Oates said. “Try and focus on tonight, get a win and see what happens tomorrow.”

The Blues clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference a while ago, but their hopes of a President’s Trophy are fading.

Maxim Lapierre had the only goal for St. Louis, which has lost a season-high three straight. The Blues have been outscored 12-3 during the losing streak. St. Louis has scored two or fewer goals in nine of its last 11 games.

“I thought the first period we were really good,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “When we got down 3-1, we just seemed to lose our energy.”

Hitchcock said the Blues’ scoring problems are more than just the top lines not delivering.

“I think it’s across the board,” Hitchcock said. “When you’re not scoring, you need to shoot, but it’s more the execution after we got down.”

Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and Mikhail Grabovski added another goal for the Capitals. Braden Holtby made 28 saves after he started over Jaroslav Halak, who played 40 games and recorded 24 wins for the Blues this season. Holtby also beat the Blues 4-1 on Nov. 17.

“We got fortunate in some places, a broken stick on a wide-open shot and a few others where they just missed, but I think that was a credit to us pressuring them on those scoring chances,” Holtby said. “It’s a game of those little things and tonight we did that.”

Flyers 5, Panthers 2

In Sunrise, Florida, Claude Giroux scored two goals and Philadelphia clinched a playoff berth by beating the Panthers.

Tye McGinn, Sean Couturier and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Flyers and Steve Mason made 38 saves. The Flyers won their second consecutive game after losing their four previous contests.

Lightning 3, Maple Leafs 0

In Tampa, Ondrej Palat had two goals, Anders Lindback came off the bench to make 25 saves, and the Lightning ended Toronto’s playoff hopes.

Rangers 4, Hurricanes 1

In New York, Brad Richards scored two power-play goals, and the playoff-bound Rangers improved their chances for home-ice advantage in the first round.

Red Wings 4, Sabres 2

In Buffalo, Darren Helm scored the go-ahead goal 3:33 into the third period to inch Detroit closer to clinching a playoff berth.

Senators 4, Islanders 1

In Uniondale, New York, Jason Spezza scored twice and Ales Hemsky added an insurance goal.

Blue Jackets 4, Coyotes 3 (OT)

In Columbus, Ryan Johansen took a stretch pass from James Wisniewski and scored on a wrist shot at 3:33 of overtime.

Wild 4, Bruins 3 (SO)

In St. Paul, Minnesota, Mikko Koivu scored for the Wild and Ilya Bryzgalov denied all three Boston shots in the shootout, clinching a wild-card spot for Minnesota in the Western Conference playoffs.

Stars 3, Predators 2 (SO)

In Dallas, Tyler Seguin scored in the fourth round of a shootout and the playoff-chasing Stars eliminated the Predators from postseason contention.

Avalanche 4, Oilers 1

In Edmonton, Erik Johnson had a goal and an assist and the Avalanche beat the Oilers.