Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin(8)is checked by Ottawa Senators Sergei Gonchar (55)as Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa Wednesday December 7, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
OTTAWA - Depending on how you saw things Wednesday, Alex Ovechkin was either the hero or the villain.
The Washington captain sparked a quick two-goal barrage in the third period but was also accused of a spearing Ottawa's Chris Neil as the Capitals defeated the Senators 5-3.
Struggling offensively of late, Ovechkin gave Washington a 3-2 lead in the third, celebrating his ninth goal of the season—and his first in six games—with great fanfare.
"It's pretty good when you score a goal finally," Ovechkin said. "The last couple of games I've had some pretty good chances to score, but they didn't go in and now I scored finally."
Ovechkin beat Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson with the teams playing 4-on-4 at 13:50 of the third period and Troy Brouwer stretched Washington's lead to 4-2 just 15 seconds later.
"(Ovechkin is) our star player and we need him to play like that," Brouwer said. "He set the tone early, had a couple of good shifts and a couple of good opportunities.
"You could see one coming—he had that desire to score. Hopefully this will give him a little bit of confidence so he can get back to the old Alex Ovechkin that we know."
The Senators, meanwhile, saw Ovechkin in a completely different light.
Ovechkin appeared to spear Neil midway through the second period after taking a hit from the Ottawa tough guy. Neil dropped to his knees but ended up receiving an unsportsmanlike penalty for diving, much to the anger of the 17,771 on hand at Scotiabank Place. Ovechkin was roundly booed the remainder of the night.
"All I know is Chris Neil delivered a good clean hit and they both came up the ice and obviously Ovechkin didn't like it and showed his displeasure by spearing him," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "You're really not supposed to spear somebody. It's a pretty dangerous play."
Neil described the incident as a "pitchfork in the gut" and is hopeful the play will be reviewed, but added he was surprised by Ovechkin's actions.
"I don't see him as that type of player," Neil said. "We played each other hard the rest of the night. He's a guy you want to finish checks on."
All Ovechkin had to say was that he's "not the type of guy who spears players."
Jeff Halpern, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson, into an empty net, had the other goals for Washington (14-12-1), which got 31 saves from Tomas Vokoun.
Nick Foligno, Erik Condra and Milan Michalek replied for Ottawa (13-12-3). Anderson stopped 39 shots his seventh straight start.
The Capitals also beat the Senators 3-2 in overtime on Saturday night to hand new head coach Dale Hunter his first win.
Trailing 2-1 in the third on Wednesday, Backstrom snapped a shot over Anderson's shoulder on the power play at 9:45 to tie the game before Ovechkin and Brouwer put the game out of reach.
"Our defensive zone coverage can't be Craig Anderson in the net," MacLean said. "We have to do a way better job of defending and cutting back our shots on goal. I thought they had the puck most of the night and we were chasing it."
The Senators didn't quit down by two. Michalek scored his 17th of the season with Ottawa on the power play at 16:08 and Daniel Alfredsson had a great chance to tie it on another man advantage with Anderson on the bench late in the third.
The puck popped out to the Senators captain in the slot, but he couldn't beat a sprawling Vokoun.
Carlson, who also had two assists, added an empty-net goal to seal the win.
Michalek's goal tied him atop the NHL goal-scoring race with Toronto's Phil Kessel and Chicago's Jonathan Toews.
Washington dominated play early on, outshooting Ottawa 15-6 in the first. The Capitals had a full two-minute two-man advantage, but were unable to get anything past Anderson.
Washington opened the scoring at 2:12 of the second when Halpern jumped on a Dennis Wideman rebound in front and buried it behind Anderson.
Ottawa tied the game 1-1 at 12:43 when Condra showed some great hands, drawing the puck back and tucking it in as he fell to the ice.
The Senators then took the lead at 17:54 when Foligno scored a highlight-reel goal. Weaving his way around three Capitals, Foligno whipped a one-handed shot around Vokoun to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead after two.
Notes: The Senators are 0-2-1 against the Capitals this season. ... Ottawa was without D Filip Kuba (upper body, three-to-four weeks), C Peter Regin (shoulder, indefinitely), D Matt Carkner (knee, day-to-day). Nikita Filatov was a healthy scratch. ... Washington was without Tom Poti (strained groin, on injured reserve), Jay Beagle (concussion, on injured reserve), D Mike Green (strained groin, out indefinitely), D Roman Hamrlik (lower body, day-to-day), RW Matt Hendricks (lower body, day-to-day).