Capitals vs. Oilers: Alex Ovechkin and Washington break power-play drought in rout of Edmonton

Marco Sturm greets Alexander Semin, who closed the scoring. Sturm had his first assist for the Capitals on the play. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Marco Sturm greets Alexander Semin, who closed the scoring. Sturm had his first assist for the Capitals on the play. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 12:44 AM

For months, the Washington Capitals have tried to solve the riddle of their bumbling offense and the power play that went from the toast of the team to woefully ineffective. Wednesday night, against the worst team in the NHL, the Capitals resurrected their offensive flair for their first win by more than one goal out of the last nine.

Alex Ovechkin scored his first power-play goal at Verizon Center this season and finished with two goals and an assist, while Eric Fehr added two tallies in his return from a 22-game absence to lead the Capitals to a 5-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers. It is Washington's sixth consecutive victory, tying the team's longest winning streak of the season.

The Capitals improved to 86 points, leapfrogging Boston into second place in the Eastern Conference and remaining two points ahead of Tampa Bay for the Southeast Division lead.

In a game that reminded the Capitals of the offense they're capable of generating, goaltender Braden Holtby was equally steady in his own end, making 22 saves to earn his first NHL shutout in his eighth start.

"It almost feels better to get the win after coming from an emotional game in Tampa, just to come back and make sure the team played well, and we did that tonight," Holtby said. "I think the best part of it was just to see the guys get their flair back like they did tonight. Some of those goals only guys in this dressing room can make."

After a scoreless first period, a save by Holtby just more than five minutes into the second might have been what sparked the offensive onslaught. Edmonton center Andrew Cogliano raced down the ice on a short-handed breakaway, but Holtby made a save to send the play in the opposite direction.

Jason Arnott gained control of the puck on the right half-board wall on the ensuing possession. He paused before sending a powerful slap-pass cross-ice to Ovechkin, who fired a one-timer past Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Ovechkin's goal, his first on the power play at home since March 29, 2010, came just 29 seconds after Holtby's stop on Cogliano.

"Braden made a great save, and that was probably the whole turning point of the game," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We come back and we score on the power play; it was like popping an air balloon. I can't even recall the last time we scored a power-play goal at home."

Arnott's assist was his 900th career point. Ovechkin would soon reach a milestone of his own, recording his 600th career point with an assist on Fehr's power-play tally about five minutes later that gave Washington a 2-0 edge. For Fehr it represented a successful comeback in his first contest since Jan. 14 because of a dislocated right shoulder.

The Capitals weren't done yet. In the third period, Washington took advantage of turnovers and open space left by the young Oilers squad, beginning with a game of catch between Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson that left Khabibulin helpless. The pair, united because Nicklas Backstrom missed a game for the first time in his career with a fractured left thumb, made four passes as they skated down the slot until Ovechkin finally ripped a shot into the cage.

Ovechkin has 601 career points, now third on the Capitals' all-time scoring list behind Peter Bondra (825) and Mike Gartner (789).

Fehr's second of the game made it 4-0 before eight minutes elapsed in the final frame when Jason Chimera chipped the puck away from Khabibulin, who had come far out of his net to play it. Alexander Semin added the final flourish to give the Capitals their first win by at least five goals since a 6-0 victory over Tampa Bay on Nov. 26, which was also the last time they scored two power-play goals in a contest.

"I think our power play finally worked, we scored two goals and we won the hockey game," Ovechkin said. "I can't remember scoring five goals in a game [recently]. It was a good night for us and a good night for the fans too."

Capitals note: Washington placed defenseman Mike Green on long-term injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 25, when he last played. Green must miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days, making the earliest he could possibly return to the lineup March 22 against Philadelphia. Green missed his sixth consecutive game Wednesday, his 12th absence of the last 14 games, and is out indefinitely with what is believed to be a concussion.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company