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Feb 21, 2024 8:12 pm

Alex Ovechkin, Caps moving up as Lightning aim to rebound

Ovechkin

A sudden revitalization of the Great Eight — Alex Ovechkin — has given the Washington Capitals a better outlook on securing a postseason berth.

With their star sniper on a nine-game point streak, the Capitals will try to win their third straight match when they face the Tampa Lightning on Thursday to start a two-game trip in Florida.

Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over New Jersey was an important one for the Capitals, who are looking up at the playoffs and join the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins as clubs pursuing a wild-card spot in the East.

Over Ovechkin’s last nine games, the NHL’s second all-time leading goal scorer has eight tallies — four on the power play — and five assists.

By scoring twice, he produced his 169th multi-goal game, second only to Wayne Gretzky’s 189.

Coach Spencer Carbery said the 38-year-old Ovechkin, a lock for the Hall of Fame, used the All-Star break as a chance at renewal.

“His method is getting away from the game over the break. … Just get away from the game, leave his equipment and recharge,” Carbery said on Washington radio show The Sports Junkies. “It’s a mental reset, to be able to refresh. … You can see it in his play.”

Ovechkin opened a six-game goal streak on Jan. 27 — his fifth career streak of that length. He became the third player 38 or older to record such a stretch, joining Brett Hull (2003-04) and Johnny Bucyk (1974-75).

After losing forward Nic Dowd (upper body) on Tuesday, the Capitals promoted forward Pierrick Dube, a native of Lyon, France, on Wednesday from AHL affiliate Hershey, where he was the Bears’ top scorer.

Defenseman Martin Fehervary (lower body) missed Tuesday’s game and is week-to-week.

After winning eight straight at home, the Lightning struggled in the past two outings in their own rink, leaving coach Jon Cooper and the group scratching their heads in consternation.

Following an embarrassing loss Saturday to the arch-rival Florida Panthers and Monday night’s setback against the Ottawa Senators, the Lightning will be closing a four-game homestand that has them at 1-2-0.

Having lost 9-2 on nine unanswered goals against Florida, Cooper was looking to rebound when the Senators arrived, especially since Ottawa slotted 15th in the 16-team Eastern Conference.

But that all vanished in another disappointing loss, 4-2, to visiting Ottawa.

“I thought we responded well for nine minutes and 15 seconds. … We had a whole bunch of moments, rose the heart rate and they didn’t go in,” Cooper said. “As soon as they got that first (goal), we were just flat. Maybe it’s remnants from (the 9-2 rout), but everything changed after that and we just couldn’t quite get it back.”

Tampa Bay’s bench boss said not responding after Ottawa went up 2-0 was a letdown.

“There was a ton of game left, and we were just flat,” Cooper said. “There was no emotion. That was a disappointing part for me after what I felt was a good response in the first 10 minutes.”

Defenseman Victor Hedman also expressed disappointment.

“We’ve come a long way, and these last two games have been a step backwards,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we stop the bleeding now.”

–Field Level Media

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