OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators made sure eight was enough for the Washington Capitals.
The Senators put a stop to the Capitals' eight-game winning streak by beating Washington 3-1 on Thursday night, extending their own winning streak to four games in the process. Kyle Turris scored twice, including an empty-netter with 1:27 left. Cory Conacher also scored for Ottawa, while Mike Ribeiro had the lone goal for the Capitals.
There were nothing but smiles from coach Paul MacLean afterward.
"We're always pleased to get the two points, but I think [Thursday] was the most complete game we've played in quite a while," MacLean said.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs' 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders, the Senators (23-14-6) find themselves one point behind their divisional rivals for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Leafs and Senators square off in the final Battle of Ontario this season on Saturday night.
Craig Anderson made 18 saves for the win. Braden Holtby, who was peppered all night by the Senators, turned away 35 shots. The Capitals saw their lead over the Winnipeg Jets in the race for first place in the Southeast Division shrink to two points.
The best first-period chance for the Senators came on the power play after Mike Green was called for tripping Turris at 6:22. Jakob Silfverberg sent a cross-ice pass down low to a waiting Chris Phillips, who was set up at the right side of the net. Phillips gained control of the puck but sent it just wide.
Garnering two early penalties in game seemed to interfere with the Capitals' rhythm, according to Alex Ovechkin, the League's leading goal-scorer. Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet on Thursday and finished the night a minus-3 in 21:30 of ice time.
"I think we didn't make lots of shots on them," Ovechkin said. "Unfortunately, we did not have a good start. Holtby played well. The game all the time is going to be [about] who gets the lead. They're going to be [more successful.]"
The defensive pairing of Marc Methot and Chris Phillips was assigned the task of shutting down the red-hot Ovechkin. Methot admitted that he relished the opportunity.
"I love it," Methot said. "It's always been part of my game to shut guys down. For me to get that chance, it's a great challenge and one I like to take on. Having a partner like [Phillips] out there who knows how to play the game makes it that much easier."
The Senators opened the scoring 1:15 into the second period when Turris raced down the right wing and snapped a shot that beat Holtby on his blocker side. The goal gave Turris his 100th NHL career point. Milan Michalek also picked up an assist on the goal, giving him three points in his past three games.
"It was just one of those ones where two sticks make contact and one of them changes [the puck's trajectory]," Holtby said. "It's weird because you can't see that it's deflected. You don't realize it until it's too late."
Holtby kept it a one-goal game midway through the period when he stretched across the crease to make a left pad save on Silfverberg's wraparound try.
Despite being outshot 23-8, Washington was able to capitalize and tied the game when Martin Erat's pass across the slot was tipped by Ribeiro and went past Anderson's glove at 11:24. The point was Ribeiro's sixth in the past four games.
But the Senators went ahead to stay 2:12 later when Holtby attempted to clear the puck from behind the net but missed defenseman Karl Alzner, who was waiting at the top of the right circle. Instead, Conacher pounced and put the puck into a wide-open net.
"I scored my first goal against [Holtby] and now I was able to get number 11 against him," Conacher said as he smiled.
Washington's top-line center, Nicklas Backstrom, left the game with seven minutes remaining in the third period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
Coach Adam Oates did not have an update on Backstrom. "He took a slapper from Green," Oates said after the game. "We'll know more [Friday.]"
If the standings finish as they are now, the Senators and Capitals will face each other in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both teams admitted they were thinking about the potential future matchup.
"In the regular season, if you win you're confident," Holtby said. "If you lose, you're bitter and you want revenge. It's nice to get familiar with the team – [Ottawa has] had a lot of injuries since the last time we've played them and we'll learn from it."
"It's another building block, but we're not going to get overly excited about it," Turris said. "We need to be ready for them if the time comes."
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