WASHINGTON (AP) — James Reimer has seen plenty of Alex Ovechkin throughout his career and been on the unfortunate end of one of his many goals like so many netminders around the NHL.
On Wednesday night, Reimer was feeling lucky, and it showed.
Reimer stopped Ovechkin eight times among his 32 saves to help the San Jose Sharks beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 and snap a two-game losing streak. After allowing four goals on 13 shots on the way to a 7-1 drubbing at home to Tampa Bay over the weekend, it was a strong bounce-back effort for Reimer and his teammates.
“Any time things don’t go your way, you want to come back and play well or do what you can,” Reimer said. “Obviously you never know what’s going to happen out there, but you want to try and bring your ‘A’ game and let the chips fall where they fall.”
With Reimer leading the way as San Jose's best penalty killer, Washington came up empty on four power plays. Those included a handful of blasts from Ovechkin from his trademark spot in the left faceoff circle, and yet he was unable to score his 30th goal of the season.
“Any time you go against him, you respect the heck out of him,” Reimer said. "He’s got an unbelievable shot, and I got lucky a few times today. A couple went off my (stick) knob, and I got a piece of a few. He’s a great player, a great shooter and I was just lucky that they hit me tonight.”
Noah Gregor scored his second goal of the season and Nicolas Meloche had the first of his NHL career to help get the Sharks’ four-game East Coast trip off on the right foot and keep pace in the wide-open Western Conference playoff race. Meloche's goal came on his mother's birthday hours after speaking with her on the phone and just before seeing her in Florida later this week.
“I’ll be able to give her the puck,” Meloche said with a big smile. “It’s just great timing, I guess, and it feels unbelievable.”
Jonathan Dahlen also scored for the Sharks with 3:09 left to make it 3-1. His second goal in 22 games came in the arena that his father, Ulf, played home games in for two seasons from 1999-2001.
Andrew Cogliano sealed it with an empty-netter with 21 seconds left. San Jose's Jonah Gadjovich and Washington's Garnet Hathaway dropped the gloves for a lengthy fight at the buzzer.
The Capitals' struggles continued, losing back-to-back games in regulation for the first time this season. They've lost eight of their past 11, smarting from the absence of top-six winger T.J. Oshie and unable to cash in on quality scoring opportunities.
“There’s some that seem like they should be going in,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They’re through a seam into an empty net (or) it’s missing the post, it’s going over, the goalie is making a save. Whatever it is, it’s not happening.”
In his first game back after being a healthy scratch the previous three, Daniel Sprong scored Washington's only goal 14 seconds into the third period to cut San Jose's lead in half. Ilya Samsonov made 26 saves on 29 shots in his first start since Jan. 15, when he allowed three goals in a loss to Vancouver, and stayed in the game after a collision with 6:22 left in the third.
“Made some big saves,” said Laviolette, who had not spoken with Samsonov about the collision. “There was a point where it was 2-1 and he made a breakaway save and kept the game alive, so he did some good things in there.”
Reimer was sharp when tested at the other end, and the Sharks were opportunistic offensively. Gregor's goal came on a tap-in off a spinning pass from No. 1 defenseman Brent Burns, and Meloche scored off the rush following a Capitals turnover in the neutral zone.
Meloche became the sixth Sharks rookie to score his first NHL goal this season. Burns has 16 points in 18 games against Washington while with San Jose.
NOTES: Sharks forward Rudolfs Balcers missed a third consecutive game because he was not yet cleared to return from COVID-19 protocol. ... Coach Bob Boughner said defenseman Erik Karlsson could miss anywhere from eight to 12 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a small muscle tear in his left forearm.
Sharks: Visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
Capitals: Face 2018 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Braden Holtby for the first time since he left in free agency when they visit the Dallas Stars on Friday.