Caps Wrap: Standing OVation

Alex Ovechkin has been pacing himself since his return to the lineup. However, in each of the previous two games, he’s noticeably turned it on in the extra frame. Against Columbus and Carolina he was all over the ice in overtime, creating several scoring chances with his lethal wrist shot.

Tonight with the Buffalo Sabres in town, Ovechkin would not be denied.

Ovechkin danced his way around a defender before having his shot deflect in past Jhonas Enroth, giving the Caps a 5-4 OT win in a frantic finish. If this was a playoff preview, get ready for one hell of a ride.

The Caps have been to overtime in three straight and this one featured a wild, four-goal third period, capped by Ovechkin’s 30th goal of the season to win it. Jason Arnott tied it with the 400th goal of his career on the powerplay, backhanding in a rebound from an Ovechkin shot at the point with 52 seconds to play.

Then everyone’s favorite Russian finished her off in style. The Caps are now the top team in the East, but the Flyers lurk one point behind with a game in hand.

Some observations:

-The Capitals goalie situation isn’t getting any clearer with a shaky game by Michal Neuvirth. He had a prime opportunity to seize the control of the starting gig with late-season matchups against Columbus and Buffalo, but has struggled to control his rebounds and hasn’t performed well with the lead.

Time is winding down and Semyon Varlamov is still kicking off the rust from an injury-plagued campaign. Will Boudreau go with Neuvy in hopes he rediscovers his groove or will he turn to Varly or maybe future phenom Braden Holtby?

-Buffalo is a desperate team and the Caps had a chance to bury them early after taking a 2-0 lead 4:41 into the game. Then they let their foot off the gas and the Sabres tied it up 4:13 later thanks to goals by Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford. If this is a playoff preview, let’s hope Washington learns how to maintain the upper hand.

-Mike Knuble has been a force to be reckoned with the past month. As the season wears on, the 38-year old vet keeps on heating up. His multi-goal game, including a key tally in the third period tying it at three apiece was yet another rock solid effort from the team’s oldest player.

-As for the team’s youngest player, Marcus Johansson has shown plenty of improvement in the second half of the season. Yet he remains a liability in the faceoff circle. He won just 27% of his draws tonight and is likely headed for a spot centering the third line even though Boudreau paired him with Ovechkin and Knuble against the Sabres.

-Bill McCreary officiated his final game this evening. The Capitals honored him in a pregame ceremony celebrating the career of one the most respected referees in NHL history.

“I started here in 1984, over in the old Landover building [Cap Centre], and this is an exciting building to work in, just like that one was,” said McCreary. “Their fans here really support their team, so it was a real honor to finish here, and I think it was a pretty entertaining game in the end for everyone.”

Certainly a nice touch with his career ending in where it began (almost). He went out with a bang in a barnburner as the best player on the ice scored the winning goal in overtime.

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