Capitals beat Avs 4-2 for franchise-record 55th win of year

DENVER (AP) Once the Washington Capitals stopped hitting the post, they were able to reach a milestone.

Alex Ovechkin scored in a three-goal second period and the Capitals won their franchise-record 55th game of the season by beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Friday night.

Early on, the Capitals were pinging shots off the post left and right. And the ones that didn't draw iron were stopped by former Washington goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

''The only reason the game was close was Varlamov and the posts,'' said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who estimated his team hit five posts. ''We could've lit them up tonight.''

It turned around in the second period as Jay Beagle, Ovechkin and Jason Chimera all had goals within a 5:26 span to help Braden Holtby notch his 47th victory of the season. The Capitals goaltender is one away from matching Martin Brodeur's mark for most wins in a single season.

Given that Holtby faced just 19 shots, stopping 17, Trotz is considering starting him Saturday night in Arizona. The team really wants to get that record for him.

''Maybe it's a once in a lifetime opportunity,'' Ovechkin said. ''We're going to do our best.''

The loss was costly for the Avalanche, who trail Minnesota by five points for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Wild lost earlier in the night, but Colorado couldn't capitalize. The Avs have just four games left.

''When you don't play .500 hockey at home, it's hard to make the playoffs,'' said Colorado coach Patrick Roy, whose team is 17-18-4 at Pepsi Center. ''Those nights you have to find a way, the ugly way, whatever way it is, you have to find a way to win a game like this.''

Gabriel Landeskog scored with 5:39 remaining to make it a one-goal game. Colorado pulled Varlamov with around 2:20 left, only to have T.J. Oshie add an empty-netter with 9.9 seconds left to wrap up the win.

Jarome Iginla scored his 609th career goal in the second period. He's one away from tying Bobby Hull for 16th place on the career list.

Washington doesn't have much at stake after already locking up the Presidents' Trophy as the top regular season team in the NHL. But the Capitals played like the more desperate team and outshot Colorado by a 46-19 margin.

''That's a team on a mission right now,'' Roy said.

Beagle scored the first goal of the game at 8:50 of the second period when he took advantage of a turnover by defenseman Chris Bigras. Beagle stole the puck and jammed it in past Varlamov's foot.

The Capitals were just heating up.

Ovechkin scored his league-leading 45th goal of the season on the power play. Just 1:19 later, Chimera tipped in a shot past Varlamov, a former first-round pick by Washington who was acquired by Colorado in a deal before the 2011-12 season.

Holtby stole the show in the second period by making one sprawling save after another - the fans even chanted ''Holtby, Holtby'' on several occasions. He deflected praise, though.

''It shows the consistency of our team,'' Holtby said. ''It's been a great season so far that way.''

There was a scary moment early in the second period when defenseman Nikita Zadorov was checked hard by Tom Wilson behind the Avalanche goal. Zadorov stayed down on the ice for a few minutes before skating off with the help of the trainers. He left with a head injury.

Colorado had Matt Duchene back on the ice after missing six games because of a knee injury. He's the team's leading scorer with a career-high 29 goals.

Although the Capitals don't have anything to play for as far as the standings are concerned, Trotz doesn't plan on resting players. He will cut down on minutes, but doesn't want them to lose their edge.

The players are in agreement.

''You can't play these games out and all of a sudden flip a switch and go, `Here we go. We're in the playoffs,''' Beagle said. ''Everyone knows we have to start gearing up for it now. Hit the playoffs running.''

NOTES: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom didn't play after being banged up in his last game. ... The Capitals have 26 road wins, tied with San Jose for most in the league. ... Brodeur had an NHL-record 48 wins during the 2006-07 season for New Jersey. ... Avalanche F Nathan MacKinnon remains sidelined with a knee injury. ... Iginla scored his 20th goal of the season, reaching the 20-goal mark for the 17th time in his career.

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