Ovechkin’s OT Goal Propels Caps into 1st in Eastern Conference

April 03, 2011 | Ed Frankovic

In what was not the most aesthetically pleasing game, the Washington Capitals found a way to get two points over the desperate Buffalo Sabres and move into first place in the Eastern Conference. Alexander Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season while trying to pass the puck to John Carlson at the right post to lead the Caps to a 5-4 overtime victory at the Verizon Center. Ovechkin (1 goal, 2 assists) now has 81 points in 76 games and appears to be peaking for the post season. Jason Arnott scored his 400th NHL goal with just 51 seconds remaining in regulation off of a rebound of a point blast by the Great #8. The victory improves the Caps to 46-22-11 (103 points) and Washington just needs two points, via points gained or lost by Tampa Bay, to clinch their fourth straight Southeast Division title. As for the Eastern Conference race, they have a one point lead on the Philadelphia Flyers, who have a game in hand.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis of a win in front of the 100th straight sellout at the Verizon Center:

- Ovechkin was clearly the player of the game and Arnott was a close second for Washington. In addition, Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and was +2 on the night. The Capitals scored all five goals by going to the net and getting rebounds or creating traffic. This fact is very promising for the post season for a team that was criticized for being too “perimeter like” in the playoffs against Montreal in 2010.

- Michal Neuvirth got the win for the Caps but he would likely prefer to have back the first two goals after Washington raced to a 2-0 lead just under five minutes into this tilt. #30 gave up long range tallies and the first one was deflected in by Tomas Vanek while the second goal should have been stopped. But Neuvy came back strong and defensive lapses cost him on goals three and four. In fact, on the fourth Sabres tally, which came on the power play, Carlson got too aggressive while shorthanded late in the game and tried to generate a quality scoring chance when he should have been more responsible. We’ll call it a rookie mistake but Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau was not happy about it. In fact, the Washington bench boss was not thrilled with the play of his club throughout the entire contest.

“I’m concerned with the process of how we played {than the win}. I thought it was way too close to looking like last year,” said Boudreau.

 

Yes, it was not a gem of a defensive effort, but to be fair the Caps were playing without Dennis Wideman, Mike Green, Tom Poti, and John Erskine on the back end. In addition, Tyler Sloan got his “bell rung” in period two and left the game leaving Boudreau with Karl Alzner, Scott Hannan, Jeff Schultz, Carlson, and Sean Collins (recalled from Hershey) on defense for the last 20+ minutes. Collins had a solid game in his first NHL action since 2009 and Alzner led the club in ice time at 26:37.

 

- The injuries played a role and the fact that the Sabres are desperate to make the post season was a big factor in this contest. But Washington found a way to come out on top and you have to credit the top players like numbers 8, 19, and 44 for getting the win for Washington and moving them into the top position in the East, something that seemed unobtainable during that eight game losing streak back in December.

 

“Games like this happen. The best defensive teams in the league, every now and then, will have a game where they stop doing it right. Three of the goals we put in our own net. {But} I thought we did a real good job of coming back,” finished Boudreau.

 

- In summary, this was not a great game for the Caps but they took care of business. Washington did a solid job of going to the net and as a result they scored five goals from in front of the cage. Neuvirth (34 saves) deserves credit for maintaining his focus despite giving up some ugly tallies early. In addition, even though Carlson made a very bad decision late in regulation, he didn’t let it adversely affect him and he was a factor on the game winning goal by the Great #8.

 

Notes: Ryan Miller is injured for the Sabres and Jhonas Enroth (30 saves) received the start. The goals he allowed were all from in front of the net or on deflections so it is hard to fault him in the loss…the faceoff battle was tied at 38 all with Brooks Laich (1 assist) going 8-3… Washington went 2-2 on the power play while the Caps allowed one goal on two man advantage situations for Buffalo…the Hershey Bears rallied from a 4-1 deficit to win, 5-4, in Norfolk to come within one point of clinching second place in their division. Braden Holtby got the victory stopping 27 shots…next up for the Caps are the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Center on Tuesday night at 7 pm…NHL referee Bill McCreary officiated his last game tonight. He ranks second all-time in NHL regular season games worked (1,737) behind Kerry Fraser.

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