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Wings win after Capitals force OT

– Jimmy Howard failed to stop Alex Ovechkin’s shot in the final seconds of regulation.

But that was the last time he let a puck get past him in a successful return to the ice.

Patrick Eaves scored on Detroit’s seventh attempt in a shootout and Howard denied Washington seven times, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 victory over the Capitals on Friday night.

Howard made 26 saves after missing four games with an injured left knee.

“I felt surprisingly good,” he said. “I didn’t have any issues at all with the knee, which I think is a great sign because I came back last time and still felt it every once in a while.”

Ovechkin tied the game with 7 seconds left in the third period, but was one of seven shooters who couldn’t score on Howard.

“I had opportunity before to put puck in the net,” Ovechkin said.

“Howard played really well.”

Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist scored a tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, but the Red Wings couldn’t prevent the NHL’s goal-scoring leader from sending the game to overtime.

The Capitals pulled their goaltender late in regulation and the move paid off.

After a short break on the bench, Ovechkin had time and space to wind up for a slap shot from above the circles that sent the puck past Howard and into the net to make it 3-all.

“Ovechkin’s a dangerous guy,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

Ovechkin has 39 goals this season, his highest total since scoring 50 times during the 2009-10 season

The banged-up Red Wings welcomed back two key players: Howard and Henrik Zetterberg

Zetterberg had missed two games with a back injury.

HURRICANES 3, BLUES 1: In Raleigh, N.C., Jeff Skinner scored the go-ahead goal in the second period as Carolina won for the fifth time in six games. Alexander Semin added an empty-netter with 1:04 left and Nathan Gerbe scored on an early power play.

RANGERS 4, ISLANDERS 1: In New York, Derick Brassard scored the go-ahead goal with 7:46 left in the third period, and the Rangers used late offense to beat the Islanders for the second straight game.

PREDATORS 3, DEVILS 2, OT: In Nashville, Tenn., Shea Weber scored two goals, including at 1:29 of overtime, as Nashville rallied late to win.

JETS 4, CANUCKS 3: In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Devin Setoguchi scored two goals, including the tiebreaker with 2:56 remaining, to lift Winnipeg, which remains in the Central Division cellar.