Ovechkin lifts surging Capitals past Sharks
WASHINGTON — When he was growing up, Alex Ovechkin was a San Jose Sharks fan.
On Monday night, the Sharks were just his latest victims.
Ovechkin scored his league-leading 20th goal of the season and added an assist, Philipp Grubauer stopped 24 shots and the Washington Capitals defeated the Sharks 4-1.
Ovechkin collected his sixth goal in seven games and moved ahead of Mark Recchi into sole possession of 20th place on the NHL’s all-time goals list with 578.
“When Ovi is skating like he was skating tonight, he’s a force,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “I was told ... that he (passed Recchi) and the difference is about 700 games. It blows my mind that (he) can pass some great players in this league in term of production and do it with a difference of 700 games.”
Monday marked the Capitals’ first win at home against the Sharks since 2009, and it was just Washington’s second regulation win in their last 26 games against San Jose, the team Ovechkin rooted for while growing up in Russia.
“I was (a fan), but that was a long time ago,” Ovechkin said.
Devante Smith-Pelly, Brett Connolly and Jakub Vrana also scored for the Capitals (16-11-1), who have won five of six and are 2-1-0 on their season-high, five-game homestand.
After losing his first six starts, Grubauer has allowed two goals in winning his last two.
“I thought when the game was 2-0, 2-1 (Grubauer) was outstanding,” Trotz said. “We left him alone on a couple of odd-man situations and he stood tall.”
Timo Meier scored for the Sharks (14-10-2), who finished 2-2-0 on their four-game road trip.
Martin Jones made 25 stops in his first career loss to Washington after four wins.
Washington F T.J. Oshie left the game with an upper-body injury late in the second period after a hit by San Jose’s Joe Thornton as Oshie was falling near the boards.
“I bumped him. It felt like my hip kind of hit him in the head,” Thornton said. “It’s just unfortunate what happened.”
At the start of the third period, Washington’s Tom Wilson challenged the 38-year-old Thornton to fight. They did, and the result was a chippy third period interrupted by several more fights.
“If someone would have grabbed Joe in the heat of the moment, after the play, because they thought a liberty was taken, then I’ve got to problem with that,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “But to go into the dressing room, think about it, then come out on the first shift and do that pre-meditated crap is just garbage.”
Trotz did not have an update on Oshie after the game.
The first period was scoreless until, with 3:11 left, Smith-Pelly deflected John Carlson’s shot from the point past Jones.
Ovechkin made it 2-0 at 7:11 of second period. When San Jose defenseman Brent Burns could not corral a pass at his feet from Kevin Labanc at the Washington blue line, Ovechkin scooped up the puck, skated in alone on Jones and beat him with an elevated backhander.
“He’s been working on it for ages,” Grubauer said. “Since I’ve been here he’s been working on his backhand and it paid off today.”
The Sharks halved the deficit when Justin Braun’s blast from the blue line rebounded off the end boards to Meier, who shot it past Grubauer at 11:32.
“We had chances. I thought we could have had three or four (goals),” DeBoer said. “It thought it was a pretty even game. Kind of slipped away from us in the third.”
Late in the period with Washington on the power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov, falling down after a hit at the San Jose blue line, pushed the puck to Ovechkin on the left side. Ovechkin fed Connolly and his backhand was in and out so quickly that play continued. When there was finally a stoppage, the play was reviewed and the goal awarded at 19:08.
The goal then survived a challenge by Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who contended that the Capitals entered the zone offside.
Vrana closed out the scoring with his eighth goal at 11:36 of the third period on a power play.
NOTES: Mark Rechhi played 1,652 games in his career. Alex Ovechkin has played 949. ... Capitals F Travis Boyd, the team’s sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, made his NHL debut. F Chandler Stephenson (upper body injury) sat out and is day-to-day. ... Washington F Andre Burakovsky (thumb surgery) took part in the morning skate for the first time since his injury. He has missed 19 games. ... San Jose now holds a 25-10-2-1 lead in the all-time series vs. Washington. ... Sharks F Marcus Sorensen, recalled from San Jose of the AHL on Saturday, was on the third line. F Ryan Carpenter was scratched.