BY PAUL GEREFFI
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Washington Capitals are going into the All-Star break on a winning note — thanks in large part to Alex Ovechkin.
The All-Star left wing scored his 30th goal of the season and got his 500th career assist to help the Capitals snap a three-game skid with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
“It puts a smile on everybody’s face,” coach Barry Trotz said of the victory. “It makes the break a little bit better.”
Ovechkin is the sixth player in NHL history with at least 30 goals in 13 or more consecutive seasons at any point in his career.
“He’s a legendary player. He’s getting the points, the goals, the assists,” Trotz said. “Getting 500 assists, there’s not too many guys in this league that have as many goals and as many assists, and he’s still got a lot of years left. So those numbers are just going to continue to grow.”
Ovechkin’s assist on the Capitals’ first goal was his 500th. Ovechkin is the 15th active player in NHL history to reach that mark, and the second in Capitals history. Nicklas Backstrom has 568 assists.
“It’s a pretty big number,” Ovechkin said. “Any time you reach something, it’s pretty cool.”
Brett Connolly, John Carlson and Backstrom also scored for the Capitals. Braden Holtby stopped 32 shots.
“It was nice to see us battle back,” Backstrom said. “When you’ve been losing three games, it’s always nice to get on the winning track again.”
Denis Malgin scored both goals for Florida, which has lost three straight. Harri Sateri made 42 saves in his second NHL start.
“It’s frustrating for everybody,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “It’s never fun losing and we’re battling some adversity with our goaltenders out. We can get some rest over the next couple days and come back fresher.”
Carlson gave the Capitals their first lead when he one-timed the puck over Sateri with 2:22 left in the second to make the score 3-2.
Connolly stretched the lead to 4-2 on his power-play goal 1:52 into the third. Connolly has four goals in his past five games.
The Panthers killed off a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes early in the third period, with Sateri blocking seven shots.
“He held his own,” Boughner said. “It’s tough. We’ve got to get more scoring for him.”
Malgin’s second goal put the Panthers ahead 2-1 at 6:40 of the second. Malgin bounced the puck off the post and into the net on Holtby’s stick side from the left side of the crease.
“We have to get every point, we can,” Malgin said. “Today it didn’t happen. I scored twice, but we lost. That’s not good.”
Ovechkin tied it at 2 when he tipped a shot by Brooks Orpik in the low slot and into the net at 7:51 of the second.
Malgin gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 11:02 of the first when his shot from the high slot beat Holtby.
The Capitals tied it a 1 on a power-play goal by Backstrom, who redirected a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov past Sateri on the stick side.
NOTES: Backstrom’s goal moved him into fifth place on the Capitals’ career list with 198. … Kuznetsov left in the third period with a lower-body injury and did not return. … Panthers G James Reimer is expected to miss at least two weeks with a pulled groin. … D Keith Yandle played in his 680th consecutive game, passing Henrik Sedin (679) for sole possession of seventh place. … Panthers F Jamie McGinn left in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. … Panthers D Ian McCoshen has been loaned to AHL Springfield.
Capitals: Host Philadelphia Flyers next Wednesday.
Panthers: Visit New York Islanders on Tuesday.
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