Colorado Avalanche lose to Capitals, remain worst in league


DENVER (AP) — The Washington Capitals weren’t at their best Wednesday night. They still had plenty to beat the worst team in the NHL.

Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist, Jay Beagle and John Carlson also scored and Washington kept rolling with a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

The Capitals have 110 points, five ahead of idle Columbus, and are on track to clinch the President’s Trophy for most points in the league for the second straight season. They’ve won six straight games, although this one wasn’t their finest performance.

“Two points matter,” goalie Philipp Grubauer said. “We’re getting chased here so we’ve got to bear down. There’s no room for errors, especially now. With Columbus and Pittsburgh right behind us we have to make sure we keep them far away.”

Alex Ovechkin didn’t record a point a night after his second hat trick of the season in a 5-4 overtime win in Minnesota. He remained tied with Alexander Mogilny for second place in scoring among Russian-born players in the NHL. Both have 1,032 points, trailing Sergei Fedorov (1,179).

“It’s good for us when everyone contributes, when everyone produces,” Ovechkin said. “I just try to get in my time out there. And play for the team and let the other things will come.”

Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists and Grubauer stopped 32 shots in his first start in nine games for the Capitals. Lars Eller scored into an empty net.

Washington took a 4-1 lead for the second time in two nights, both wins. Goals by Beagle, Johansson and Kuznetsov gave the Capitals the three-goal advantage, but Colorado, last in the NHL with 43 points, chipped away.

Matt Nieto scored late in the second period and Nathan MacKinnon’s 16th goal at 4:29 of the third made it 4-3. The center split the Washington defensemen as he entered the zone and then beat Grubauer with a backhander for his first goal in six games.

“It was one of my nicer goals,” he said. “It felt good, I was pretty happy.”

MacKinnon also had an assist, and Calvin Pickard made 30 saves for Colorado, which has lost seven straight.

The Capitals had to hold on in the final minutes. The Avalanche had a 15-6 advantage in shots on goal in the third and nearly tied it, but Gabriel Landeskog hit the crossbar.

“We’re a great team when we’re focused and we’re making the right plays,” Shattenkirk said. “What we have to focus on now is why we’re giving up those 4-1 leads. It’s really just getting too casual. We have to make sure we stick with it. The reason we’re getting those leads is we’re making the right plays.”

Carlson’s ninth goal of the season early in the first started the scoring and rookie Mikko Rantanen tied it midway through the period with his 17th goal. That tied him with Matt Duchene for most on the Avalanche this season.

NOTES: Sven Andrighetto had two assists for Colorado. … The game was played with one referee after Ian Walsh was hit on the leg with a puck. … The Avalanche singed 2016 first-round pick Tyler Jost to an entry-level contract. Jost spent 2016-17 playing for the University of North Dakota, where he had 16 goals and 19 assists in 33 games. Coach Jared Bednar said Jost will be at the team’s practice facility Thursday but doesn’t know if he will play Friday. … The Avalanche are 3 for 55 on the power play in their last 22 games.

Up next:

Oilers: At the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night.

Avalanche: Host the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.

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