ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Islanders close in on playoff berth
WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 28th goal and the Washington Capitals enjoyed a rare feeling of dominance outside their division Tuesday night, winning their eighth straight with a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jack Hillen, Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson also scored, and Braden Holtby made 29 saves for the Southeast Division-leading Capitals.
The Capitals have moved into playoff position by feasting on the weak Southeast, going 14-3 within the division, but they entered Tuesday’s game just 9-14-2 against the rest of the Eastern Conference. All but two of those nine wins were by one goal.
So it was a major morale boost that they were able to manhandle Toronto, which is closing in on the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2004.
The Maple Leafs had won four of five, but they looked sluggish one night after they beat the New Jersey Devils 2-0 at home. Toronto was down 4-0 on Tuesday before Mikhail Grabovski scored in the third period.
Ovechkin, with his 19th goal in 18 games, moved two ahead of Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos in the NHL’s goal-scoring race.
The Capitals drew their usual close-to-full house, with fans seemingly undeterred by the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Security was increased at the Verizon Center, although mostly behind-the-scenes and so subtly that many noticed little or no difference as they endured the usual bags searches and screenings by hand-held metal detectors.
Arena workers said there were extra security patrols, specifically checking trash cans and security cameras before the building was open to the public. The huge scoreboard went dark shortly before the opening faceoff for a moment of silence.
Ovechkin’s goal was a one-timer from the top of the left circle during a second-period power play.
ISLANDERS 5, PANTHERS 2: In Uniondale, N.Y., Michael Grabner scored twice and Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves as New York moved closer to a playoff berth with a victory over Florida.
Playing before a boisterous crowd at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders earned their ninth victory in 12 games. The Islanders, 10-11-3 at home after starting 2-8-1, will begin a season-ending five-game trip Thursday in Toronto.
With a 14-5-3 mark since March 1, the Islanders hold seventh place in the Eastern Conference. New York, seeking its first postseason appearance since 2007, has allowed two goals or fewer in nine straight games.
Matt Moulson, Mark Streit and Radek Martinek also scored for the Islanders, who bounced back from a 1-0 loss to the Rangers on Saturday.
— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal