Capitals regain top spot in NHL East

Alex Ovechkin snapped an 0-for-5 career slump in penalty shots and the Washington Capitals returned to first place in the NHL's Eastern Conference with a 5-3 win over Philadelphia on Sunday.

Ovechkin ends 0-for-5 slump in penalty shots in win over Flyers

On the 1,999th shot on goal of his NHL career, Alex Ovechkin was brought down from behind by Braydon Coburn.

That led to attempt No. 2,000, when the NHL's two-time MVP did something he's never done before: He scored on a penalty shot.

Ovechkin snapped an 0-for-5 career slump in penalty shots by beating Ray Emery with a backhand move with 4:12 to play as the Washington Capitals piled on the goals again Sunday, retaking first place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Ovechkin is by far the fastest player to reach 2,000 shots since the NHL started keeping the stat in 1967. He's done it in 4½ seasons — no one else has done it in six. He had 249 of them go into the net.

The penalty shot statistic doesn't include shootouts — he's 1-for-5 in those tiebreakers this year. Still, was the first successful penalty shot cause for celebration? Yes, but mainly because it was Washington's fifth goal of the game, which triggers a promotion that gives wings to all the fans at the game.

"We just want to give fans free chicken wings and give them free food, you know?" Ovechkin said with a smile.

Brooks Laich broke out of a slump to score twice, including a short-handed goal in the third period, and Mike Knuble and Alexander Semin also netted as the league's highest scoring team scored at least four goals for the seventh straight game, improving to 6-1 during that stretch.

Consistent production

Washington, the league's highest-scoring team, had at least four goals for the seventh straight game to improve to 6-1 during that stretch.

Jose Theodore made 30 saves to go 2-for-2 in his first set of consecutive starts since mid-December. The stop of the game, however, was made by Washington defenceman Tom Poti.

With the Capitals scrambling to kill a penalty in the second, Poti perched next to Theodore and got his right skate in front of Jeff Carter's point-blank shot that would have tied the game 3-3.

Carter was so sure the puck had gone in that he raised both arms to celebrate.

Carter, James van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere scored for the Flyers, who outshot the Capitals 33-22 but were shut out after the first period until Briere's consolation goal in the final minute.

In addition to Poti's stop on Carter, Philadelphia's other near-misses came when Mike Richards hit the right post during a 4-on-4 stretch in the second period and when Scott Hartnell had a third-period goal waved off because he kicked the puck into the net with his right skate.

"They've got a good hockey team," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "You want to get more chances, but you've got to do the work and do the right things to get them, so it's difficult. But I thought we had our looks, they had their looks — they put 'em in."

Emery back in net

Ray Emery, playing his first game since having abdominal surgery Dec. 9, made 17 saves for the Flyers, who have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak.

Emery's last game had also been against the Capitals, an 8-2 loss in Philadelphia on Dec. 5 that also happened to be the first game for coach Peter Laviolette after John Stevens was fired.

The game was tied 2-2 after the first. Semin gave Washington the lead for good in the second with he put in the rebound on a power play.

Laich got goal No. 4 in the third after the Flyers turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Laich beat Richards to the puck and scored on a breakaway for his first two-goal game since Nov. 1.

Two of the NHL's top-scoring teams wasted no time living up to their reputations, with four of the first 15 shots finding the net. Carter opened the scoring with a power-play goal, putting a wrist shot from the left circle between Theodore's pads.

The Capitals tied it when Knuble waited on the doorstep to deposit a cross-crease pass from Ovechkin, but the Flyers regained the lead when rookie van Riemsdyk's wrist shot beat Theodore high to the glove side.

Then it was Washington's turn. When Emery couldn't control the rebound from Tomas Fleischmann's shot, Laich was there to stuff in the rebound to make it 2-2.