BUFFALO, N.Y. — Alexander Ovechkin scored twice in the Capitals' 3-1 victory over the Sabres on Wednesday.
Washington remained three points behind Carolina for first in the Southeast Division and moved into 10th in the East, a point behind Buffalo and two back of Philadelphia, which holds the final playoff berth.
Ovechkin, coming off a three-goal, two-assist outing in Monday's 10-2 win over Boston, surpassed his career high of 52 goals set as a rookie two years ago, and his 54 goals are six fewer than Dennis Maruk's franchise record set in 1981-82.
He also had a hand — but no assist — in Niklas Backstrom's goal that put the Capitals up 2-1 and came 50 seconds after Ales Kotalik scored for Buffalo.
Ovechkin checked Steve Bernier off the puck at the Sabres blue line.
Viktor Kozlov then hit an open Backstrom, who slipped a shot through Ryan Miller's legs as the crowd booed, believing Ovechkin should have been penalized for hooking Bernier.
Ovechkin, who scored on a breakaway in the first, made it 3-1 with 6:41 left when his snap shot from the left circle hit Miller's pad but trickled in.
First Period—1, Washington, Ovechkin 53 (Backstrom, Kolzig), 15:21. Penalties—Green, Was (hooking), 1:08; Schultz, Was (interference), 12:37.
Second Period—2, Buffalo, Kotalik 20 (Pominville, Spacek), 12:37 (pp). 3, Washington, Backstrom 11 (Kozlov), 13:27. Penalty—Schultz, Was (hooking), 11:09.
Third Period—4, Washington, Ovechkin 54 (Kozlov, Jurcina), 13:19. Penalties—Ovechkin, Was (tripping), 1:22; Poti, Was (interference), 7:25; Kotalik, Buf (holding), 19:41. Shots on Goal—Washington 7-10-6—23. Buffalo 8-5-13—26. Power-play opportunities—Washington 0 of 1; Buffalo 1 of 5. Goalies—Washington, Kolzig 23-20-6 (26 shots-25 saves). Buffalo, Miller 30-23-7 (23-20). A—18,690 (18,690).
ATLANTA — Eric Staal had two goals and an assist for the Hurricanes, who have won eight of 11. Carolina is 25-10-4 when Staal records a point as well as 20-5-3 when he scores. He has eight three-point games, including two in a row after getting a goal and two assists in a win Saturday over the Lightning.
First Period—1, Atlanta, Thorburn 3 (Holik, Kovalchuk), 4:21. 2, Carolina, Walker 8 (Kaberle, Aucoin), 8:12. 3, Carolina, Bayda 3 (Walker), 19:06. Penalties—Zhitnik, Atl (hooking), :57; Thorburn, Atl (tripping), 10:12; Ruutu, Car (hooking), 16:20; Recchi, Atl (holding), 16:40; Kozlov, Atl (high-sticking), 20:00.
Second Period—4, Carolina, Corvo 9 (Samsonov, Cullen), :27 (pp). 5, Carolina, Cole 18 (Staal, Kaberle), 10:39. 6, Atlanta, Christensen 10, 17:09. Penalty—Kwiatkowski, Atl (interference), 13:50.
Third Period—7, Carolina, Staal 32 (Cole, Letowski), 3:41. 8, Atlanta, Kovalchuk 43 (Klee, Zhitnik), 12:17. 9, Carolina, Staal 33 (Kaberle), 18:41. Penalties—Havelid, Atl (interference), :10; Kaberle, Car (hooking), 7:37; Aucoin, Car (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:15; Perrin, Atl (roughing), 14:15; Christensen, Atl (high-sticking), 19:13. Shots on Goal—Carolina 14-11-12—37. Atlanta 3-9-12—24. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 1 of 7; Atlanta 0 of 2. Goalies—Carolina, Ward 29-21-4 (24 shots-21 saves). Atlanta, Lehtonen 13-19-4 (22-18), Hedberg (13:39 second, 15-13). A—13,032 (18,545).
DETROIT — Pavel Datsyuk scored twice for the Red Wings, who have won two straight since a 1-8-2 stretch.
First Period—1, Detroit, Datsyuk 24 (Kopecky, Holmstrom), 5:28. 2, St. Louis, E.Johnson 4 (Jackman, Tkachuk), 18:27 (pp). Penalties—Brewer, StL (hooking), :38; Franzen, Det (holding), 1:18; Datsyuk, Det (tripping), 17:58.
Second Period—3, Detroit, Franzen 14 (Samuelsson, Zetterberg), 9:48. Penalties—Walker, StL (cross-checking), 10:04; Maltby, Det, double minor (interference, cross-checking), 10:04; Lilja, Det (interference), 13:43; McClement, StL (interference), 13:43; Stempniak, StL (holding), 16:14; Backes, StL (tripping), 18:50.
Third Period—4, Detroit, Rafalski 11 (Downey, Lilja), 6:11. 5, Detroit, Datsyuk 25, 18:29 (en). Penalties—Downey, Det (slashing), 3:43; Mayers, StL (roughing), 16:26; Maltby, Det (roughing), 16:26; Woywitka, StL (interference), 19:19; Stempniak, StL (roughing), 19:19; Rafalski, Det (roughing), 19:19; Walker, StL (roughing), 19:50. Shots on Goal—St. Louis 6-7-6—19. Detroit 12-11-9—32. Power-play opportunities—St. Louis 1 of 3; Detroit 0 of 5. Goalies—St. Louis, Legace 24-21-7 (31 shots-28 saves). Detroit, Hasek 21-8-3 (19-18). A—18,064 (20,058)..
Blackhawks could host outdoor game
An outdoor game in Chicago "would make a lot of sense" to commissioner Gary Bettman, and the site could be Wrigley Field.
Bettman did not commit to staging one in the Windy City during a news conference but said the Blackhawks are on the list to host one. New York, Boston, Detroit, Colorado, Montreal, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia also have expressed interest, and Bettman said his "guess" is there will probably be one next season.
The Sabres and Penguins drew a league-record 71,217 for a game at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year's Day.
Islanders: Goalie Rick DiPietro practiced for the first time since leaving the team Saturday for his grandmother's funeral. But the team did not say if he will start tonight.
Panthers: Left wing Chad Kilger was suspended without pay. Shortly after being acquired from the Leafs at the deadline, Kilger, who has 10 goals and seven assists in 53 games, was granted a leave of absence. But he has failed to return.