The Edmonton Oilers are the latest victims of Alex Ovechkin’s torrid goal-a-game pace.
Ovechkin scored his 10th goal of the season and added an assist as the Washington Capitals won their third in a row, defeating the Oilers 4-1 on Thursday.
“He’s a goal scorer,” said Washington head coach Adam Oates. “They’re kind of broken plays and before you know it, with his release, they’re tough on goalies.”
Ovechkin not only has 10 goals in 10 games this season, he has 32 in his last 31 games dating back to last year.
Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for the Capitals (5-5-0), who have won four of their last five after a 1-4-0 start to the season.
Ovechkin said Backstrom’s early third-period goal was really the backbreaker.
“That was a big goal,” he said. “We scored that goal and then they stopped playing, then they gave us a lot of opportunities three-on-two and three-on-three. It’s a good situation and we have to take advantage of those kind of chances, don’t give them anything. I think we played well and (goaltender Braden) Holtby played well today, too.”
Justin Schultz responded for the Oilers (3-7-1), who saw a two-game winning streak snapped and have now lost six of their last eight.
Oilers captain Andrew Ference said his team was going good through the first two periods, but didn’t have the same intensity in the third.
“We worked hard in the first 40 minutes and in the third period you are supposed to cash in,” he said. “You have guys who are worn down and have had extended shifts and we didn’t enjoy the payoff of those first two periods of pressure. It’s disappointing not to see the same consistent quick tempo, quick transition ... there was way more gliding in the third. It just doesn’t work.”
Edmonton head coach Dallas Eakins agreed that his team just couldn’t keep up with the Caps for the full game.
“I thought we had some good offensive-zone play until that third period,” he said. “I really believe they were trying to step on the gas, there was just no gas left. I give a lot of credit to their goaltender. He made some great saves. We had some good looks, we just couldn’t get it past him.”
The Capitals came close to starting the scoring seven minutes into the first period as Ovechkin tipped a shot that trickled past Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk and was rolling into the net before he dove back and covered up the puck.
Ovechkin wasn’t about to be stopped a second time, however, as he scored his league-leading 10th goal of the season in 10 games with just under two minutes left in the opening period. A face-off deep in Oilers territory came back to the Washington captain and he deposited a quick wrist shot up high past Dubnyk.
Edmonton had a glorious chance to tie the game midway through the second period as a hard rebound came out to Jordan Eberle in front but he shot it wide of the empty net with Holtby trying to get back into position.
Washington went up 2-0 with four minutes to play in the second as Ward stood in the paint in front of the Oilers net to screen Dubnyk and was able to direct in a John Carlson point shot.
Edmonton out-shot the Capitals 22-18 through 40 minutes.
Washington extended its lead to three goals just over a minute into the third on a nice tic-tac-toe passing play. Marcus Johansson made a nice pass through the crease to Backstrom, who scored his second of the season and 11th point.
The Capitals made it 4-0 with seven minutes remaining after a turnover allowed a two-on-one and Chimera, who was originally credited with Ward’s earlier goal, picked the corner on a snap shot.
The Oilers broke Holtby’s shutout bid with 2:04 remaining as a David Perron pass gave Schultz a clear lane and he scored on a backhand.
“We did some good things, we were a little bit shaky in the first,” Oates said. “But as the game went along, we did a better job playing the way we’re supposed to play.”
The Oilers head right back out on the road for a two-game trip, starting Saturday afternoon in Phoenix. The Capitals play the third game of their five-game trip in Calgary on Saturday.
Notes: It was the second of two meetings between the teams, having already faced each other on Oct. 14 in Washington, where the Capitals won 4-2. It was Washington’s first visit to Rexall Place in Edmonton in nearly two years since the Oilers won 2-1 on Oct. 27, 2011. ... Washington came into the game having lost eight of its past nine in Edmonton. ... Capitals defenceman Mike Green was back to taking regular shifts after being benched midway through the third period of his team’s last game in Winnipeg. It was the first game all season he failed to log at least 20 minutes of ice time. ... The Capitals are a relatively healthy team, their biggest absence being defenceman Jack Hillen, who is recovering from leg surgery. Conversely, the Oilers are beat up, missing star forward Taylor Hall, who is expected to be out for a month with a knee injury. Also out of the lineup are forwards Sam Gagner (broken jaw), Jesse Joensuu (back), Ryan Smyth (groin), Ryan Hamilton (knee) and Steve MacIntyre (knee).