Ovechkin returns, Capitals end losing streak

Ovechkin returns, Capitals end losing streak
January 25, 2014, 9:45 pm
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Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre:

How it happened: In his first game back after missing the previous two with a groin strain, Alex Ovechkin scored the Caps’ first goal, his NHL-leading 36th of the season, in a four-goal outburst in the second period.  Defenseman John Erskine and center Jay Beagle followed with their first goals of the season and John Carlson added his ninth to make it 4-0 and send Habs goalie Carey Price to the bench. Hershey Bears callup Casey Wellman added his first goal of the season 8:38 into the third period to complete the rout.

What it means: Ding, dong, the streak is dead. The Capitals’ win snapped a seven-game losing streak [05-2] and was their first victory since Jan. 10. With the win, the Caps improved to 23-21-8 and moved from 13th in the Eastern Conference standings to 12th, based on having one more win than Ottawa. The Caps are still two points out of a playoff spot but have three teams between them and a wildcard spot.

Holtbeast: Braden Holtby was not tested often, but he stopped all 21 shots he faced to earn his first win since Dec. 7 and his second shutout of the season.

Lineup shuffle: With Mikhail Grabovski sidelined by a leg injury, Brooks Laich centered a second line with Marty Erat and Troy Brouwer. Tom Wilson replaced Joel Ward on a third line with Jay Beagle and Jason Chimera. Ward played on a fourth unit with Wellman and Eric Fehr.

Big plus: Ovechkin, Laich and Erat each finished the game a plus-3, a season high for each of them. Erat also picked up a pair of assists. Ovechkin registered a team-high four hits.

Look ahead: The Caps will be given the day off on Sunday and hit the ice at Kettler at 10:30 on Monday before finishing off the final three games on this five-game road swing.