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Ovechkin stars as Caps clip Wings

AFTER exchanging counter-punches with the defending Stanley Cup champions, Alex Ovechkin delivered a decisive knockout combination he hopes will establish the Washington Capitals as a legitimate contender.

Ovechkin broke a third-period tie with another highlight-reel goal and added a power-play tally less than two minutes later in the Capitals' 4-2 victory over Detroit on Saturday in Washington that extended the Red Wings' losing streak to a season-high five games.

"It's a huge victory for us," Ovechkin said. "It gives us a lot of confidence. They were missing a couple of players, but it's very important to play an experienced team and this game meant a lot to us."

It proves the Capitals have the mettle to succeed against the NHL's elite. Before Saturday, they were 1-9 with a tie in their last 11 home games against Detroit.

"It's a good measuring stick to see how you match up to the Stanley Cup champs," Washington defenseman Tom Poti said. "A lot of guys had this game circled on the calendar. It's a game we were ... obviously jacked up for."

But until the third-period scoring flurry, the game could have swung either way. With a sellout crowd gasping on every rush up the ice, Ovechkin took control.

He looked to have overskated a feed from Viktor Kozlov along the left wing, but reached behind himself, sneaked the puck through his own legs and used defenseman Brian Rafalski as a shield before pushing a low shot past Ty Conklin with 7:08 remaining.

Detroit's Kirk Maltby was penalized for cross-checking with 5:58 left, and, six seconds later, Ovechkin popped in Nicklas Backstrom's rebound from the left post for his team-high 33rd goal, drawing chants of "MVP! MVP!" from the red-clad throng.

Mike Green and Kozlov also tallied for Washington, which halted a two-game losing streak. Ville Leino and Johan Franzen had Detroit's goals.

"When you think of dominating a game, I don't think Ovie did that tonight. They pay him to score - and that's what he did at the end," Red Wing coach Mike Babcock said.

Washington is 31-1-1 when he scores.

In other games, it was: Bruins 1, Rangers 0; Blackhawks 4, Sharks 2; Sabres 2, Coyotes 0; Canadiens 4, Kings 3; Stars 7, Blue Jackets 3; Blues 4, Flyers 0; Wild 4, Canucks 3, OT; Ducks 4, Avalanche 3; Maple Leafs 5, Penguins 4; Hurricanes 2, Thrashers 0; and Islanders 3, Panthers 1.

In Boston, the Bruins moved back to the top of the overall NHL standings by edging the New York Rangers 1-0.

Goalie Tuukka Rask made 35 saves for his first NHL shutout in his first game since 2007, and Boston leapfrogged San Jose for the league's best record.

Marc Savard deflected a slap shot with 22 seconds left in the second period.


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