For the second time in five games, Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to cap a comeback victory as the Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 last night at Verizon Center. The win kept the Capitals’ fragile playoff hopes alive.
After a fiery speech by head coach Dale Hunter following a lackluster second period, the Capitals played the third period with urgency, grit and determination. Marcus Johansson tied the game at 2-2 with four minutes remaining in the game to force overtime.
The Caps ended their five game home stand the same way they started it 9 days ago with a come-from-behind OT victory. The win once again moves the Caps into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Caps played well in the first period and managed to score first when Karl Alzner took a long shot from the blue line and Keith Aucoin was able to tip it between his own legs past rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
But when the Lightning scored two power play goals in the second period, it appeared to take the life out of the Caps. Apparently Hunter had some words of inspiration in the locker room between the second and third periods.”Coach give us hard time,” said Ovechkin after the game. “And we win.”
Hunter did not divulge the contents of his speech to the team during the second intermission, but some of the players gave their take. “The message was to man-up, play hard, and play as a team,” said Alzner. Brooks Laich put it a little more poetically: “He said just quit trying to use your skill and use your will a little bit more.”
The Caps came out with some ferocity in the third period and were able to dictate the flow of the game. After trailing in shots for the first two periods, the Caps outshot the Bolts 12-3 in the final frame. “I thought it was one of our best periods in a long time,” said Johansson. With four minutes remaining in the game, Dennis Wideman made a risky dive at the blue line to keep the puck in the Tampa Bay zone. The risk paid off as the puck went straight to Johansson behind the defense. Johansson took his time and beat Tokarski between the pads to tie the game at 2-2.
The overtime game-winning goal came when Jason Chimera won a battle in the corner on a chip-and-chase play. Chimera centered it to Dmitry Orlov in the high slot. Orlov faked a shot, drawing Tokarski out and freezing him. Instead of shooting, Orlov slipped a pass to Ovechkin at the right circle for a shovel shot to the back of the net.
The rest of the regular season looks like an uphill battle for the Caps to make the playoffs. Of the 15 remaining games, nine will be on the road, including visits to Chicago, Detroit, Philadephia and Boston (twice). “They are tough opponents on the road,” said Laich. “Now we are going to find out what kind of hockey team we are…. ‘Just keep winning’ is the name of the game.”
The Caps face the Bruins in Boston tomorrow night before returning to face the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Sunday at 5pm. Check out the rest of the Caps schedule here, or look here for tickets to upcoming games.