By JOE YERDON, Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Alexander Ovechkin matched Phil Esposito for sixth on the NHL’s career list with his 717th goal and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-0 on Monday night.

Ovechkin scored in the third period, helping send the Capitals to their fifth straight win with his 1,299th career point — one shy of becoming the 35th player to reach 1,300.

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BUFFALO, NY – MARCH 15: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals fires a second period shot against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game on March 15, 2021 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

He scored from the slot off a pass from former Sabre Conor Sheary, who found Ovechkin cutting toward the net. Ovechkin snapped a quick shot past Carter Hutton, who was screened.

Vitek Vanecek stopped 23 shots and improved to 4-0-1 against the Sabres. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Richard Panik, Daniel Sprong and Garnet Hathaway also scored for Washington, which used three goals in the second period to move to within two points of the New York Islanders in the Eastern Division.

After Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead at 18:46 of the first period with his 400th NHL point, Backstrom made it 2-0 at 2:41 of the second. Backstrom’s 11th goal of the season came in his 984th game with the Capitals, passing Calle Johansson for second-most games in franchise history.

Panik made it 3-0 at 5:59 with a one-timer after defenseman Dmitry Orlov stole the puck at center ice after a pass from Brandon Montour went long

Sprong made it 4-0 when he came in on a breakaway in which his shot beat Hutton up high for his sixth goal of the season at 15:07.

Hathaway gave the Capitals a 5-0 lead at 6:46 of the third period when he deflected a point shot from Justin Schultz past Hutton for his fourth of the year.

Hutton made 24 saves for Buffalo, which is 0-9-2 in its past 11 games, the third-longest skid in team history. The Sabres are 0-8-1 in their past nine home games, the second-longest winless streak in franchise history behind the 12-game slump when they went 0-6-1 with five ties between Jan. 10 to March 27, 1991.

ELLER OUT

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The Capitals were without center Lars Eller due to a lower-body injury he suffered in Saturday’s 5-4 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. Eller has five goals and seven assists in 22 games this season.

EAKIN SCRATCHED

Sabres forward Cody Eakin was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Eakin, in the first season of a $4.5 million, two-year contract he signed with Buffalo in the offseason, has one goal and three assists in 26 games. He had five goals and 10 assists for the Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights last season.

ROSTER MOVES

The Capitals went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Sabres. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk replaced Eller in the lineup and played in his first game since Feb. 7. Van Riemsdyk has one goal in seven games.

The Sabres recalled center Rasmus Asplund from the taxi squad and sent defenseman Brandon Davidson to the taxi squad. Asplund played in his first game since Feb. 25 and his fifth of the season. Asplund replaced Eakin in the lineup.

WHAT’S NEXT

Capitals: Face the Islanders on Tuesday night to start a six-game homestand.

Sabres: Visit the Devils on Tuesday night before returning home for a two-game set against the Boston Bruins on Thursday and Saturday that will be the first games with fans in attendance in Buffalo. Thursday’s game will have 700 frontline workers.

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