|Record-breaking Ovechkin has surging Capitals on brink of playoff berth|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 April 2008 02:16|
Serenaded again with chants of ``M-V-P!'' from the sellout home crowd, Ovechkin scored his 64th and 65th goals Thursday night, breaking Luc Robitaille's single-season NHL mark for left wings and leading the Capitals to a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
``He really turns it up when the game's on the line,'' Washington center Brooks Laich said.
The win put the Capitals into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, although they have only one game left to play while Boston and Philadelphia still have two to go.
Washington likely needs to beat Florida at home in Saturday's regular-season finale to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003 - and for the first time in Ovechkin's young career.
``It's a good time for us right now,'' Ovechkin said. ``We have a chance, and we have to keep it going.''
With just a few more days left in the NHL season, the postseason picture is clearing up.
Detroit beat Columbus 3-2 to earn the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
The New York Rangers clinched a playoff spot in the East with a 3-0 victory over the Islanders. Montreal won the Northeast Division and knocked Buffalo from playoff contention with a 3-1 victory.
Minnesota won the Northwest with a 3-1 victory over Calgary, though the Flames and Nashville secured Western Conference playoff spots when Vancouver lost 2-1 to Edmonton.
Dallas beat Phoenix 4-2, meaning the Stars will be seeded no lower than fifth in the West.
Ottawa beat Toronto 8-2, moving the Senators within a point of a playoff spot in the East.
In the one game with no bearing on the playoff race, it was Los Angeles 4, San Jose 2.
In Washington, the 22-year-old Ovechkin tied the game - and passed Robitaille - in the first period after the Lightning stunned the crowd with a goal in the first minute. The score remained an all-too-antsy 1-1 until Ovechkin's power-play drive from the top of the left circle with 12:10 left in the game.
It was Ovechkin's 22nd power-play goal of the season, tying Peter Bondra's team record.
The Capitals have won six in a row - their longest winning streak since Jan. 8-19, 2000 - and 10 of 11. They also notched their 17th comeback victory under Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who took over a last-place team when Glen Hanlon was fired in November.
Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti added insurance goals late in the third period, and Cristobal Huet made 18 saves for his eighth straight win, the longest streak for a Capitals goalie since Pete Peeters won nine in a row from Jan. 28 to March 3, 1987. Huet is 10-2 since he was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline.
Red Wings 3, Blue Jackets 2
At Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg wrapped up the Presidents' Trophy for the Red Wings, scoring the game-winner with 11 seconds left.
With 113 points, the Red Wings took the title of regular-season points leaders and earned home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Mark Hartigan and Johan Franzen also scored for Detroit, and Dominik Hasek made 20 saves.
Rangers 3, Islanders 0
At Uniondale, N.Y., Jaromir Jagr scored two power-play goals in a 2-minute span of the first period, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 shots, and the Rangers clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
Lundqvist earned his 10th shutout of the season and 17th in the NHL.
The Rangers are fifth in the East and still have their sights on the fourth-place New Jersey Devils and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They end the season against each other Sunday in New Jersey.
Canadiens 3, Sabres 1
At Montreal, Bryan Smolinski scored twice, Carey Price came within 8:30 of posting his second straight shutout, and the Canadiens eliminated Buffalo from the playoff race.
Chris Higgins also scored for Montreal, which is tied with Pittsburgh atop the Eastern Conference with 102 points.
Ales Kotalik scored his 23rd goal for Buffalo.
Wild 3, Flames 1
At St. Paul, Minn., Marian Gaborik scored two third-period goals to help the Wild beat Calgary and clinch the first division title in the franchise's seven seasons.
Minnesota's Jacques Lemaire also earned his 500th career victory and became the 12th coach in NHL history to reach that mark.
Minnesota will be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 23 saves for Calgary.
Predators 3, Blues 2
At Nashville, Tenn., J.P. Dumont scored the tying goal and assisted on the game-winner for the Predators, who clinched a playoff spot when Vancouver lost.
Jerred Smithson and Greg de Vries also scored and Jan Hlavac had three assists to help the Predators beat the Blues for the second time in three nights.
Senators 8, Maple Leafs 2
At Toronto, Antoine Vermette scored three goals and Ottawa moved within a point of wrapping up a playoff berth.
The Senators, who scored three short-handed goals, can clinch a playoff spot Friday night when they close out the regular season at home against Boston.
Stars 4, Coyotes 2
At Glendale, Ariz., Brenden Morrow scored and added an assist to lead Dallas, which secured no worse than the fifth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Matt Niskanen, Stephane Robidas and Mike Modano also scored for the Stars.
Oilers 2, Canucks 1
At Vancouver, British Columbia, Dwayne Roloson made 13 of his 37 saves in the third period, and Edmonton knocked Vancouver out of the playoffs.
Marty Reasoner and Jarret Stoll scored in the second period for the Oilers.
Kings 4, Sharks 2
At Los Angeles, Anze Kopitar scored twice in the final 5:38 to help Los Angeles hand San Jose its first regulation loss in 21 games.
Brian Willsie and Raitis Ivanans both scored against Vezina Trophy candidate Evgeni Nabokov before Kopitar got his 31st of the season with 5:38 remaining.