Just another night at the office for Ovechkin: a goal, two assists and the invention of a new dance. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
On Fan Appreciation Day, the Capitals certainly rewarded their supporters. In front of 18,398 deafening fans — good for the Caps’ 100th consecutive sellout — Washington pulled out a thrilling overtime victory, moving into the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Caps struck first and early when just 37 seconds in John Carlson fired a wrist shot that Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth failed to collect. The red-hot Mike Knuble then did his usual dirty work in the crease to net the opening tally.
Washington jumped out to a two goal lead at 4:41 when Alexander Semin — who was on the ice for eight chances for and three against — scored a similar goal to Knuble’s, tapping in Nicklas Backstrom’s rebound behind Enroth. PANIC!!!1 Timeout Buffalo.
Lindy Ruff’s T.O. would work wonders as just 1:51 later Tomas Vanek put the Sabres on the board as he tipped in Jason Pominville’s shot. At 9:28 Buffalo tied the game when Drew Stafford unleashed what appeared to be a weak, harmless looking shot from the point. After glancing off Jeff Schultz’s leg, the bouncing biscuit went five-hole on Michal Neuvirth, who appeared never to see it.
In the second, both team were even at 11 shots on goal for the frame, but neither converted on their chances.
The teams remained scoreless for most of the third period until Paul Gaustad broke in behind the Capitals defense and faked out Neuvirth to give Buffalo the 3-2 lead.
Less than two minutes later, however, Knuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuble netted his second goal of the match, as he deflected Brooks Laich’s shot from the point on the man advantage to tie the game once again.
But speaking of second goals, it was Stafford who struck again for the Sabres, scoring 2:31 after Knuble’s marker when Carlson ran into Neuvirth, preventing him from making the save. The head coach appeared enraged at rookie defenseman on television, yelling: “What the [Boudreau] was that?”. BRUCE MAD!
“I just talked to him about it,” Bruce Boudreau said after the game. “It’s under four minutes to go in the game and we’re killing a penalty and we didn’t have full control even. We’re just taking off. We can’t do that. And then we have to come back like a chicken with their heads cut off.”
With just 52 seconds left and Neuvirth pulled the Caps netted the tying tally in dramatic fashion as Jason Arnott backhanded home Alex Ovechkin’s rebound, his 400th career goal.
It was also the Capitals’ second power play marker of the game. The captain summed it up well.
“Power play worked today good,” Ovechkin said.
“Anytime we can score a power play goal it’s a beautiful thing,” he remarked.
“Good for our confidence,” said Marcus Johansson of the power play. “You feel you can score when you have to score.”
In overtime, well, you know what it was: Ovi Time. Ovechkin curled and dragged pass two Sabres before firing a wrist shot pass Enroth. Boom. First place. WINGS! IS PARTY NOW! WE WE WE SO EXCITED! Shall we dance? Caps shock Sabres, 5-4.
- Ovechdance! Ovechdance!
- Alex Ovechkin‘s 30th goal of the year came on his 11th game-winning goal and third OTGWG of the year. His other two overtime game-winners came on picturesque tallies against the Islanders on March 1 and the Senators on October 11.
- Ovechkin was on the ice for 11 chances for, had seven shots on goal and four hits. Oh, yeah… he had also had the primary assist on Arnott’s 400th career goal, a powerful point shot that Enroth had no chance on corralling, and the secondary assist on Knuble’s first period rebound goal. Despite his great offensive play, Ovi was on the ice for eight chances against, the seventh time this season he’s had such a game, explaining his minus-one on the night.
- One last bullet on Ovechkin. The enthusiasm he showed in his dance after the game-winner creates hockey fans for life. He is simply one of the most remarkable players in hockey history, combining Hall of Fame skill with a boyish enthusiasm. Everyday we watch him play, we consider ourselves lucky.
- “Protecting the lead, for most parts of this year, was a forte of ours,” said Boudreau. “But the teams that we play are in their playoff mode. And it’s a great learning experience of seeing how teams are ramping it up for the playoffs.”
- Bill McCreary officiated his final NHL game on Saturday, his 1,737th major league contest. McCreary’s started his career that spanned four decades on November 3, 1984, when the Washington Capitals hosted the New Jerseys Devils. He ref’d the most playoff games (297) and the most Stanley Cup Final games (44) in league history, along with two Winter Olympics goad metal games in 1998 and 2002.”He has probably seen it all in our game,” said Knuble.
- Speaking of McCreary, it was the first time since the 2004-05 NHL lockout that a referee tandem with him did not call a minor penalty through two periods. It was also the first time since 2008 that the Caps have played in a game with no minors called on either team in the first two frames.”I thought the refs did a great job,” Boudreau said. “It was a like a playoff hockey game, and they know what it means so they let the hacks and the slashes go while it was even”
- Jason Chimera played just 9:23 of ice time and was the ice for zero scoring chances for, one against. He was invisible out there.
- Matt Bradley had seven hits in under 11 minutes on the ice. That is all.
- Sean Collins, seeing his first NHL game in almost two season, was not too bad. Collins was on the ice for three chances for and four against in 14:07 of ice time. He also played nine (!) seconds on the penalty kill. Boudreau had this to say after the game: “I think he did really good. I think he moved the puck well. He competed. He did a really good job.”
- The Caps lost yet another D-man to injury when Tyler Sloan left in the second period after registering 10:52 of ice time. “He’s day to day,” said Boudreau, meaning it could be anything from a hangnail to a ruptured spleen.”He got his bell rung and we’ll see how it goes,” he added. It appears, however, that John Erskine will back for the next match.
- Despite giving up four goals, Boudreau prasied his rookie Czech netminder. “I thought Neuvy did a real good job of staying composed and not letting things get to him and juust battling the battle, and I thought we did a real good job of coming back and not hanging our heads and saying “oh well , let’s just wait till tomorrow,” he said. Guess we know who playoff starter is.
- With Buffalo picking up the point tonight, they move into to sole possession of seventh place in the East, with the Caps now set to take on the New York Rangers in the playoffs as the seedings currently stand. YELP!
Games remaining: three.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg and Ian Oland.