Three straight games without a point and six of the last seven without a goal qualifies as a major drought for Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal-scorer.
So with the Capitals desperate for wins as they try to lock down a playoff spot, coach Barry Trotz decided to change things up for Sunday's matinee against the Rangers at the Garden, splitting up Ovechkin and his usual centerman, Nicklas Backstrom.
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"Backie and Ovi have been together so long, it's like -- I always say, it's like a marriage," Trotz said afterward. "Sometimes an odd weekend road trip is probably a good idea."
Trotz's gambit paid off in a big way.
Ovechkin scored two goals as the Capitals beat the Rangers, 5-2, in a game that might have been a first-round playoff preview.
Washington also got two goals from third-line forward Jason Chimera as the Capitals bounced back from a 4-3 loss to Nashville on Saturday and handed the Rangers their second loss in two days.
Ovechkin picked up his 48th and 49th goals, leaving him one shy of his sixth 50-goal season, a feat the Russian winger swears he isn't thinking about.
"It's a good accomplishment," he said of 50 goals. "Obviously, if the puck goes in, the puck goes in, but I'm concentrating right now to clinch the playoffs and not that other stuff."
Had the playoffs started Sunday, the Capitals would have been matched up against the Rangers, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. So a Washington win was worth more than just the two vital points.
Ovechkin said the victory was "mentally" big for the Capitals, and everyone else in the visitors' dressing room agreed.
"It might be a potential first-round opponent, so we want to create some doubt in their mind," Chimera said. "And obviously, we do a good job coming into this building and winning. There's no better place to win. It's a great atmosphere in here and a great place to play hockey."
Chimera did his part, breaking a drought of his own -- 20 games without a goal -- when he scored to give the Caps a 3-2 lead at 4:41 of the third period. He scored again just 2:59 later to put Washington up 4-2.
"It seems like my last goal was when my kid was born -- my first kid -- so it seems like long ago," Chimera joked. (His oldest son, Cale, is 6.)
"You don't want to go that long without scoring a goal, but you want to score some big ones and you always seem to get up for these games. I love playing in this building; it seems like it's very kind to me."