The Capitals never got discouraged, though, and their perseverance was finally rewarded.
Matt Pettinger scored in the fourth round of the shootout, giving Washington a 5-4 victory Thursday night and its first three-game winning streak in three years.
"I was just happy to get the win," said Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig, who stuffed a penalty shot by Mike Sillinger in
overtime. "It was an ugly game. I wish we would have won in regulation, but we won, and that's the bottom line."
Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and an assist and scored in the shootout for Washington. His 33 goals are a team record for a rookie, breaking the mark set by Bobby Carpenter in 1981-82.
In his last six games, the 20-year-old Russian has eight goals and five assists.
"He always makes the right shot, the right move," Sillinger said. "He's a talented young player."
After the Capitals lost leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-3, the shootout went to a fourth round tied at 1. Kolzig kicked away a shot by Scott Young before Pettinger beat Curtis Sanford, providing Washington with its first three-game winning streak since January 2003.
"Stick side. I've gone there a few times, and it seems to be working for me," Pettinger said.
Dean McAmmond tied the game at 4 with 4:29 left in regulation, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Blues from losing their eighth straight. St. Louis, however, took consolation in getting a point on the road.
"It's been a struggle, but I think we're staying in games and giving ourselves a chance to win," Sanford said. "If we can keep doing that, then hopefully we'll be able to capitalize and get some wins."
Sillinger, Young and Dennis Wideman scored power-play goals for the Blues, who dropped seven straight on the road. It was the first time in 10 games since 1997 that St. Louis lost to Washington.
The Blues were poised to win with 4:09 left in overtime when Washington defenseman Ivan Majesky handled the puck in the crease, and Sillinger stepped up to take the penalty shot.
"I was going down the ice and the puck rolled up my stick and I had to settle it down," Sillinger said. "Kolzig covers the bottom of the net really well and is quick up top. I thought I'd catch him backing up. He made a good save."
The Blues had several more chances to score, but Kolzig had six saves during the five-minute session.
The Capitals trailed 3-2 before Chris Clark and Brian Willsie
scored on successive shots. After Clark got his ninth goal with 18:53 left in regulation, Willsie scored on the power play with 16:07 to go after taking a pass from Ovechkin, who received his 27th assist.
The lead stood until McAmmond put in the rebound of a shot by Young. But Washington recovered to become the last NHL team to have a three-game winning streak since the start of the 2003-04 season.
"Everyone knows we're a young team. Three wins in a row right now is huge for our confidence," Pettinger said.
After falling behind twice, the Blues used goals by Young and Wideman to escape the first period with the score 2-all.
Ben Clymer put the Capitals up 1-0 with four minutes elapsed, deftly skating around Wideman before beating Sanford with a backhander.
After Young tied it at 9:27 with a blast from just inside the blue line, Ovechkin answered 25 seconds later. He used a forehand-to-backhand move to get around Eric Weinrich on the left side and then fired a wrist shot that soared over Sanford's left shoulder and into the back of the net.
Sillinger got the only goal of the second period.
The Blues finished 1-9 against Eastern Conference foes, including 0-5 against the Southeast Division. ... Washington went 5-5 against the West. ... St. Louis has won only twice this season when the opposition scores first.