WASHINGTON â€” T.J. Oshie is leading the Washington Capitals in goals, but Alex Ovechkin is again leading them into the playoffs.
Ovechkin had a goal and two assists as the NHL-leading Capitals beat the surging Calgary Flames 4-2 Tuesday night and snapped goaltender Brian Elliott’s franchise-record winning streak at 11 games.
While Oshie reaching 30 goals in a season for the first time in a contract year led Ovechkin to proclaim, “Ka-ching,” the Russian superstar was the best player on the ice with 11 shots in one of his most dominant performances in recent months.
“If he’s got 11 shots every game, at least one is going to go in,” said linemate Nicklas Backstrom, whose three assists tied him with Connor McDavid for the league lead with 57. “When he’s forechecking like he is right now and he’s hitting guys, it makes a big difference for the whole team.”
In addition to a season-high 11 shots and a perfect setup on Oshie’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty and was feeling the puck all night. It took the top line skating circles around the Flames and generating quality scoring chances to beat Elliott, who kept his team in the game by stopping 36 shots.
“That’s how you have to wear him down is with shots. It’s with net presence,” said former St. Louis Blues teammate Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored his first goal with the Capitals on the power play with 2.9 seconds left in the second period. “We had many moments there where we could’ve just put our heads down and felt sorry for ourselves, but we just kept coming at him.”
Playing his 300th career game, counterpart Braden Holtby celebrated his bobblehead night by making 29 saves for Washington, which reached 102 points and remained one ahead of the Metropolitan Division-rival Pittsburgh Penguins, who clinched a playoff spot by winning in Buffalo.
Sean Monahan and Troy Brouwer â€” whom the Capitals traded to the Blues for Oshie two summers ago â€” scored for the Flames in just their fifth loss in 22 games. The defeat certainly doesn’t hang on Elliott, who tied Mike Vernon for the longest winning streak in franchise history before Washington was too much to handle.
“Moose kept us in and we had a chance right at the end to get points out of that game,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. “That’s what’s most disappointing, I think.”
While the Flames continue their three-game road trip trying to move into one of the top three spots in the Pacific Division, the Capitals are trying to fend off the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets for home-ice advantage and first place in the Metropolitan. More performances like this one from the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Oshie will help that cause.
“We try to do our best to be on the same page, our line, and you can see Backy feeling it, Osh feeling it,” said Ovechkin, who scored his 29th of the season and is on the verge of becoming the third player in NHL history with 30 or more goals in each of his first 12 seasons. “I just have fun to play there.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for the Capitals, who improved to 39-7-5 when scoring first â€” and also scored last thanks to Ovechkin’s power-play goal with 2:51 remaining. Ovechkin has led Washington in goals every season of his career.
“This guy can score a lot of goals,” Oshie said. “Not really my focus to lead the team in goals. My goal is to play good hockey and get wins. I wouldn’t doubt him scoring every game for the rest of the season. “
NOTES: Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk served the first half of his two-game suspension for elbowing Kings D Drew Doughty in the face Sunday. … Only Hall of Famer Ken Dryden has more wins (193) in his first 300 games than Holtby (186). … Brouwer’s goal was his first point in six games against the Capitals.
Flames: Look to get back on track when they visit the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
Capitals: Host the Blue Jackets on Thursday in a matchup between two of the top three teams in the NHL.
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno.
Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press