As Alex Ovechkin's legend continues to grow, the Washington Capitals find themselves back in the mix for a potential playoff spot.
Ovechkin had four points Tuesday night to lead the Capitals to a 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres. With two goals and two assists, the Washington captain and right winger passed Mike Gartner for second place on the Capitals' franchise points list with 790 career points.
"He's the face of the franchise, and we count on him every night," Washington coach Adam Oates said. "He plays a lot of minutes, a lot of responsibilities. He's done a great job obviously this year with the Olympics, he's had a lot of demands on his time being pulled in a lot of different directions. Glad to see him rewarded tonight. We needed the points and he got it done for us."
The Capitals (24-21-8) have now won back-to-back games after failing to win in regulation in seven consecutive games (0-5-2).
Ovechkin set up defenseman Mike Green with a perfect feed on the game-winner on an odd-man rush one minute into the extra session. Instead of electing to shoot, Ovechkin chose to dish the puck to Green, who had an open shooting lane. Green fired the puck high into the top right corner of the net.
"There was wide-open ice and as soon as that player went over to Alex, I knew that either I'd have a rebound and hopefully pop in or if Alex heard me that (he'd see me) ... he made a great play," Green said. "I know it's tough for him not to shoot the puck but what an unselfish play that was."
Green also had two goals for Washington, while right winger Troy Brouwer added a goal for Washington.
Goaltender Braden Holtby made 23 saves for the Capitals, who gave up a lead on three separate occasions but persevered to pick up two points.
"The guys were really resilient," Brouwer said. "I thought after we went up 2-0 we kind of relaxed a little bit thinking it was going to be an easy game, and that team on the other side's got a lot of pride. They worked real hard, got themselves back in the game a few times but we found a way to win tonight. That's positive but we also have to be a little bit nervous giving up a lead three times in a game."
Center Cody Hodgson had two goals for the Sabres (14-30-8). Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and center Philip Varone also scored for Buffalo, while goalie Jhonas Enroth made 30 saves.
"I think we had a lot of character in that room," Hodgson said. "We showed a lot of guts battling back but it's a winnable game for us. We could've closed it out in the third period and had some little breakdowns and mistakes that ultimately cost us. It's tough. I thought we did battle back and show a lot but it wasn't enough."
Ovechkin helped the Capitals quickly jump out to a 2-0 lead with two goals within the game's first five minutes. His first of the night came on a power-play blast from long range 3:49 into the game. Ovechkin made it 2-0 just 53 seconds later when Green's wrist shot from between the circles deflected off the Washington captain and into the Buffalo net.
The Sabres got one back at 13:45 on Ehrhoff's fourth goal of the season. After a terrific point-blank save by Holtby on Sabres left winger Matt Moulson, Ehrhoff pounced on the rebound and chipped it into the net to cut Buffalo's deficit to one.
Hodgson tied the game at 2-2 with a quick power-play strike 1:41 into the second period. The Sabres center found himself all alone inside the left circle and finished off a quick passing sequence that was started by center Tyler Ennis and Moulson.
The teams traded goals midway through the second period to make it 3-3. Green briefly gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead when he burst around the Sabres net to put home a wrap-around at 10:09.
Buffalo tied it up just over a minute later on Varone's first career NHL goal. Varone was the beneficiary of a strong rush toward the net by left winger Marcus Foligno, who found him sitting outside the goal crease at 11:11.
Washington took a 4-3 lead into the second intermission following an outstanding tic-tac-toe passing play by the Capitals on the power play. Ovechkin threaded a cross-ice pass to right winger Martin Erat, who found Brouwer alone in the slot. Brouwer hammered home a one-timer at 16:57 for his 10th goal of the season.
Buffalo evened the score once again 6:48 into the third period on Hodgson's second of the night. Hodgson knocked a backhand shot past Holtby to make it 4-4.
NOTES: The Capitals scratched LW Aaron Volpatti, C Ryan Stoa and C Mikhail Grabovski. ... The Sabres scratched D Jamie McBain, LW Linus Omark and RW Drew Stafford (upper body). Both McBain and Omark struggled in Buffalo's 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. ... This was the third and final meeting between the Sabres and Capitals this season. The two previous games between were both 2-1 shootout victories for Buffalo. ... Leading up to Tuesday night's game, the Capitals earned a point in 12 of their past 15 games against Buffalo.