WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin's first 64 minutes on Monday night will not be remembered as some of his best work. He had as many giveaways and penalties as he did shots on goal and hits.
But, as Ovechkin has proven many times in his career, he only needs a second and a few inches of space to make an impact. He faked a shot to open a lane and put a low changeup past Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclaire with 31.1 seconds left in overtime to propel his Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory against the Senators at Verizon Center.
"Only Alex can play like he did and still score the overtime goal and be the hero," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Go ask him how he played and he'll tell you, 'Not too good.' But he got the overtime goal and that's what superstars do. That's why he’s out there in the last minute -- because he can win you a game at any chance."
Eric Fehr and Alexander Semin also scored for Washington. A year after losing only five times in regulation at Verizon, the Capitals are 2-for-2 on home ice to open this season.
Jarkko Ruutu and Ryan Shannon tallied for Ottawa. Leclaire had made 23 saves prior to Ovechkin's attempt past defenseman Chris Campoli, but the Senators dropped their third straight contest to begin the season.
"He made some saves for sure, but we need him to make that last one," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "It was very disappointing. To me it was not a very – if you think of Ovechkin's shot – there wasn't a whole lot on it and I'm not sure how it ended up beating him five-hole. It was frustrating because he had played well for us."
The Senators came to Washington sporting a two-game losing streak and fresh off an ugly 5-1 defeat at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday. Ottawa controlled this contest for long stretches, keeping the high-powered Capitals offense in check and created plenty of scoring chances against rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
"We came more organized tonight and supported each other better," Shannon said. "We stayed together on the ice and didn't get spread out. It seemed like we didn't get tired on the ice. They're a good team. They're a team that is projected to win the Stanley Cup and we hung with them."
Neuvirth made 29 saves and continues to carry the Capitals in net with fellow 22-year-old goaltender Semyon Varlamov on injured reserve with a groin injury. His rebound control was a bit suspect in the first half of the game, but just like Saturday against New Jersey, the Czech Republic native got stronger as the game wore on.
"He keeps getting better every game. That's a good sign for a young goaltender," Boudreau said. "I thought his confidence in the first period of the last game still wasn't there, but I think he felt very comfortable today in net."
Neither team was able to accomplish much on the power play. Last season the Capitals boasted the top-ranked power play in the League, converting 25.2 percent of their opportunities, but finished in the bottom five and deterring extra-man chances.
Both teams were satisfied with their work on the PK this evening. Washington erased five power-play chances for Ottawa and is now 12-for-12 in that department this season. At the same time, the Capitals are now 1-for-13 with the extra man.
"I was hoping the PK would be doing well," Boudreau said. "We went through a lot of different ideas over the summer and we've got guys who are committed to it. The power play will get better if you just look at our trends the past few years. For whatever reason it hasn't been solid in October and then it starts to pick up in November and gets better with the familiarity. It seems like we're out of sync a little bit and when we get chances we're not burying them."
Added Clouston: "I thought the guys followed the [PK] game plan. We scouted what they were doing and I thought we shut down for the most part what they were trying to do and I think we frustrated them at times."
Shannon forced overtime with his first goal of the season 7:20 into the final period. Peter Regin caused Nicklas Backstrom to turn the puck over near his own bench and fed Shannon, who found enough room with John Carlson marking him to snap a shot into the top-left corner of the net.
"He created a lot of energy and scored a huge goal for us," Clouston said. "That's the way we need him to play all the time."
Semin put the Capitals on the board first with a goal late in the first period. Brooks Laich went into the left corner with a pair of Ottawa defenders, but he was able to poke it out in front of the Senators net. Semin was all alone and had time to flip it under the crossbar with 1:22 left in the period.
Ruutu evened the score for the Senators midway through the second period. Ruutu redirected a shot from the right point by defenseman Matt Carkner past Neuvirth at 9:58.
Fehr put Washington back in front 81 seconds later. Matt Hendricks collected a pass from Boyd Gordon behind the net and hit Fehr skating past the top of the crease for an easy one-timer. It was Fehr’s second goal in as many games and Hendricks’ first point with the Capitals.
Quality scoring chances were hard to come by in the extra session, but Carlson found Ovechkin with a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone, and the Capitals captain did the rest.
"They really came hard – I think they had 12 or 13 shots in the first period," Neuvirth said. "They really wanted to win tonight and they took us to overtime, but we got the huge goal for us. … I was kind of getting ready for a shootout, but when he scored I was maybe the happiest guy in the building. That was a huge goal for us and a huge win."
Washington defenseman Tom Poti was a late scratch and is officially day-to-day. Poti took part in warm-ups in his normal place alongside John Erskine but was unable to play. Matt Bradley left the contest after the first period and did not return. Boudreau said both players have lower-body injuries.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson also left the game with a lower-body injury. Clouston said he will be re-evaluated Tuesday. Jesse Winchester was a healthy scratch for the Senators for the first time this season. He was replaced in the lineup by Shannon.