BUFFALO, N.Y.-Alexander Ovechkin scored twice, including his NHL-leading 54th goal, in the Washington Capitals' 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night in a key Eastern Conference playoff-race matchup.
Niklas Backstrom, who entered the game as the NHL's rookie scoring leader, had a goal an assist while Olie Kolzig made 25 saves for his 299th career victory. Washington jumped into 10th place in the East standings, 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 a 10-2 win over Boston on Monday, surpassed his career-high of 52 goals, and registered his 10th multigoal game this season.
The Capitals, improving to 16-8-3 since sitting 14th in the East at the midpoint of their season, also stayed within two points of Southwest Division-leading Carolina after the Hurricanes beat Atlanta 6-3 earlier in the night.
Ales Kotalik scored the lone goal for the suddenly slumping Sabres, who dropped to 2-4-1 in their past seven, and have two wins in their past eight home games (2-5-1). Buffalo, coming off a 5-2 win at Philadelphia on Tuesday, squandered a chance to take over eighth place.
Credit Ovechkin, who had a hand - but no assist - in setting up Backstrom's goal, scored 13:27 into the second period, 50 seconds after Kotalik tied it at 1.
Ovechkin started the play by checking Steve Bernier off the puck at the Sabres blue line, creating a break the other way. Viktor Kozlov then hit a wide-open Backstrom, who slipped a shot through Ryan Miller's legs, as the crowd booed, believing Ovechkin should have been penalized for hooking Bernier.