ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — With the Anaheim Ducks bearing down on him all night, Jaroslav Halak couldn’t relax for even a moment in front of the Washington Capitals’ net until the horn sounded on another victory.
None of the Caps can afford to take many more breathers if they hope to make it back to the postseason.
Alex Ovechkin scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period, and the Capitals kept up their playoff push with a 3-2 victory Tuesday night.
Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer also scored for the Capitals, who have won three straight to pull into an eighth-place tie with Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They barely held off the Ducks, who threw 45 shots at Halak and pressed right up to the final seconds.
“We can’t worry about anything else that’s going to happen except for our games,” said Halak, who made 43 saves in his sixth consecutive start. “Right now, two points are all huge, any way we can get them.”
The Caps haven’t trailed during their winning streak. But even after Ovechkin scored his 46th goal early in a power play, they were in a nail-biter against Anaheim.
“That was a huge game,” Ovechkin said. “We prepared for it, and we were ready for it. We played one of the best teams in the league.”
Ovechkin’s goal was just the second in seven games for last season’s NHL MVP, but the Capitals need every goal and victory possible on their three-game California road trip. The Blue Jackets and Detroit, one point back in ninth place, both have two games in hand on Washington.
Ben Lovejoy and Mathieu Perreault scored for the Ducks, who have lost four straight home games while falling out of first place in the overall NHL standings.
Jonas Hiller stopped 27 shots, but the Ducks have lost to the Capitals in each of their last four visits to Honda Center.
“I think we had a lot of looks and were shooting the puck, but we weren’t getting to any loose pucks,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You can make a million and one excuses, but we’re just not getting the job done.”
Washington hadn’t visited Honda Center since Feb. 16, 2011, nine months before the Capitals fired Boudreau, who was hired by Anaheim two days later.
“This was a big one for Bruce, and we all knew it,” Lovejoy said. “I think we came out with a lot of passion. When we’re skating and playing tough hockey, we get our forecheck going, and we had that going tonight. We just weren’t able to put more than two in the net.”
Ward got his 21st goal on a fat rebound just 2:11 in, scoring in his third consecutive game. Lovejoy tied it 59 seconds later on an unobstructed slap shot set up by a terrible Washington line change.
Brouwer scored on a power play in the final seconds of the first period for the Caps, getting his third goal in two games off another rebound.
Perreault, the former Capitals center, put a wrist shot past Halak, who was thoroughly screened by Patrick Maroon, to tie it right after a power play expired early in the third period.
But just 1:12 later, Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff and John Carlson got the puck to Ovechkin, who put a typically vicious one-timer past Hiller.
NOTES: Dustin Penner returned to Honda Center for the first time since Anaheim traded him to Washington on March 4. Penner had 13 goals and 19 assists in 49 games this season in his second stint with the Ducks, but was a frequent healthy scratch. … Halak was in Anaheim with the Blues on Feb. 28 when he was traded to Buffalo, forcing him to leave Honda Center early while St. Louis faced the Ducks with a locker room attendant as their backup goalie. … Boudreau won his first game against his former team when the Ducks beat the Capitals 3-2 on Dec. 23.
Wizards lose at Sacramento in OT
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — It certainly wasn’t an ideal way to start an important road trip.
The Washington Wizards squandered an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and eventually lost in overtime to the lowly Sacramento Kings.
Isaiah Thomas had his first career triple double with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to help the Kings beat the Wizards 117-111 in overtime on Tuesday night.
DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay each added 24 points for the Kings, who rallied in the fourth to send the game into overtime and simply outplayed the Wizards in the extra period to snap a two-game losing streak.
Veteran center Marcin Gortat felt the Wizards let up late in regulation and it cost them a victory.
“We were up five points (with 24 seconds left) and celebrating like we had already won the game,” said Gortat, who had a physical battle all game with Cousins, the Kings highly aggressive young center. “We loosened up way too much. We got punished for being too cocky.”
It was a rare loss for the Wizards, who had won 10 of 13 games before falling to the Kings for the fourth straight time at Sleep Train Arena.
After being quiet through three quarters, it was Gay and Cousins delivering big time for the Kings in both the fourth period and overtime.
“To turn it around, go up by 11 points and give the game away, it hurts,” said Drew Gooden, who scored 18 points in a reserve role. “They executed down the stretch and we couldn’t get any rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins is a load.”
Bradley Beal had 19 points and Gortat also had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Wizards. They had won six of their previous seven road games. John Wall had 14 before fouling out in overtime.
The loss prevented Washington from moving within a game of Chicago, which has the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards (35-32) drop to sixth in the East, one percentage point behind Brooklyn (34-31).
Trailing by five points in overtime, Ariza hit a 3, Wall converted on a fastbreak layup and Beal made a 3-pointer, giving Washington a 109-107 lead. But consecutive baskets by Cousins and Gay put the Kings ahead by two with 1:01 left.
Beal made both free throws to put the Wizards in front 100-95. But a Thomas three and a running shot along the baseline by Gay tied the game at 100 with 5.6 seconds remaining. Beal missed a jumper in the final seconds.
Washington started the fourth quarter with eight straight points to take an 81-70 lead. Cousins helped bring the Kings back, scoring eight consecutive points, the final two on a dunk that cut the Washington lead to 86-81 midway through the fourth.
NOTES: The Washington starters shot 5 of 20 in the opening quarter and the Wizards trailed 30-19. … Prior the game, the Kings signed Royce White to a second 10-day contact. He was not activated for the game. White, who was drafted by Houston in 2012, has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and has never played an NBA game. … Webster had a four-point play late in the third quarter. … The Kings are 4-2 in overtime games this season, while the Wizards are 4-7.
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