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Ovechkin's OT winner lifts Caps

Wednesday, 02.06.2008 / 1:21 AM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Alex Ovechkin scored 2:28 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 4-3 comeback win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Watch highlights from the Caps 4-3 overtime win
Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals didn’t let a little thing like a two-goal deficit on the road discourage them — not when there were points to be had.
   
Ovechkin started Washington’s comeback at 13:34 of the second period and finished it by scoring 2:28 into overtime to give the Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.

Video 
   
''It doesn't matter what the score is — 2-0, 4-0 — you've just got to play,'' said Ovechkin, who extended his League-leading goal total to 45. ''We just have to believe in ourselves. We know we can win the game. It doesn't matter what happens. This was a big game for the young guys. We're just growing up.''
   
Ovechkin gave the Caps the win when he took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Tom Poti and fired a low, hard shot from the right circle past Fredrik Norrena. He then skated to the corner and leaped into the air and off the glass in a solitary celebration before his teammates could mob him.
   
''I thought he struggled more than I've seen him in the first period,'' Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''He looked tired. I asked him if he was OK and he said he was. He started coming on, getting stronger as the game went on. His shot is just so deadly, that wrist shot of his. I've been here 32 games now and it amazes me every day.''
Poti, who tied it with 6:53 left in regulation, and Alexander Semin also had goals for the Capitals.

Rick Nash scored two goals — one on a franchise-first three-on-five disadvantage — and Jason Chimera had the other for the Blue Jackets, who lost their season-high fourth in a row, thanks to Ovechkin.
   
''I thought we did a good job on him and he still got two goals,'' Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla said. ''He's just a special player, having a great year.”
   
The loss could be particularly costly for the Blue Jackets, who are involved in their first playoff race. Starting goaltender Pascal Leclaire, the NHL leader with eight shutouts, was run into by two players late in the second period and had to be helped off the ice. He came away with a bruised neck and will not travel with the team on Wednesday when it leaves for Phoenix and San Jose.
   
Semin tied the game at 2-2 by beating Norrena with a backhander on the first shot after the change in goaltenders. Nash put Columbus ahead at 4:02 of the third period, but Poti’s first goal of the season with 6:53 sent the game to overtime.
   
Ducks 3, Islanders 0 | Video
   

NHL.COM'S THREE STARS:
Zednik
Richard Zednik had his best night of the season, scoring three goals and adding an assist,  as the Florida  Panthers routed the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Check out NHL.com’s Three Stars of the Night. ...more


GAME OF THE NIGHT:
Plekanec
One team is depleted by injuries and trying to stay afloat. The other is firing on all cylinders.
   
The Montreal Canadiens — one of the hottest teams in the League — inched closer towards replacing the Ottawa Senators atop the Eastern Conference standings on Tuesday night, as Tomas Plekanec had two goals and an assist in a 4-3 victory over the slumping Sens at the Bell Centre. ...more


Teemu Selanne’s return and a visit to Long Island were just what the struggling Ducks needed. Selanne had an assist in his first game of the season after re-signing with the team last week and the defending champs blanked the floundering Islanders.
   
The Ducks came to Long Island with a six-game losing streak and hadn’t scored in more than two full games before Selanne started a play that ended in Scott Niedermayer’s power-play goal at 2:36 of the second period. That ended their scoreless streak at 177:56.
   
“Awesome," Selanne said of his first game back. "But it wasn’t very easy. Missing that much time and playing my first game back, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But obviously the team played very well and it was a good win. You have to take baby steps to go forward, and this was one of them."
   
Todd Marchant and Doug Weight added third-period goals, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 25 shots for his third shutout of the season and first victory since Jan. 17.
   
"It’s everybody together," Giguere said. "Everybody was tightening it up in our own end and making sure we follow the game plan. You can’t be successful in this League without your teammates, and I couldn’t do what I did tonight without them."
   
The Islanders lost their fifth in a row and seventh in their last eight games. They’ve dropped to 13th overall in the Eastern Conference.
   
New York, already battling a flu bug that’s swept though the locker room, played without center Mike Sillinger, who’s out for three weeks with a hip injury   

"It's tough. I'm not going to lie," Isles coach Ted Nolan said. "Now is a time when we'll see what sort of character is on this team. We'd like everybody healthy and going, but that's not the case. We have to buckle down and right the ship."
   
Forward Miro Satan injured his knee in the first period, returned in the second, but was limping by the end of the game.

"Miro could barely walk after the fall, so we probably shouldn't have let him play,” Nolan said.

“But that's Miro. He wanted to play. We have some time to think about it because he's hurting."

Flyers 3, Thrashers 2 | Video

Antero Niittymaki and the Philadelphia Flyers just can’t lose to the Thrashers. Niittymaki stopped 23 saves and remained perfect in eight career decisions against Atlanta when Steve
Downie got the game-winner with 4:29 left in regulation,

Overall, the Flyers have won nine in a row against the Thrashers. They’re 13-2-1 in Atlanta and have won 24 of the 30 meetings since Atlanta joined the NHL.

''Marty (Biron) has played so well at home, but we just targeted this game for Nitty,'' Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. ''He seems to play his best games against Atlanta. He really elevated his game. ... I thought he was terrific.''

Niittymaki has allowed just 13 goals in the eight victories.

''It's just something about this building,'' Niittymaki said of Philips Arena. ''I like to play here. It's one of those things where you feel comfortable playing some teams and you get good bounces, too.''

One of those fortunate bounces came only 30 seconds after Downie's go-ahead goal. A video review confirmed a shot by Atlanta's Marian Hossa hit the post to Niittymaki's left and did not cross into the net.

Niittymaki also remained undefeated as a pro against Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen, a fellow Finn.

''I don't really think about playing against Lehtonen,'' Nittymaki said. ''It's always nice to play another Finnish goalie. Maybe it gives you a little extra boost. You never want to lose to your countryman, but still it's just one game and you try to win.''

Philadelphia, which also got power-play goals by Mike Knuble and Mike Richards, moved two points ahead of New Jersey and Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored early in the second period in his return after missing two games with a right knee injury suffered in a knee-on-knee hit from Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu last Wednesday. Despite wearing a brace on the knee, Kovalchuk said ''I feel pretty good.

''I thought it was going to be worse than that,'' Kovalchuk said, adding the brace ''didn't bother me at all.''

Eric Boulton scored Atlanta's second goal, tying the game with 1:22 left in the second period.

Sabres 4, Bruins 2 | Video

Ryan Miller made 30 saves as the Buffalo Sabres completed a seven-game road trip on a high note with a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins.

Buffalo completed a seven-game road trip that started off poorly into one that ended on a high note by polishing off the Bruins in Boston for their fourth win in five games behind two goals by

Daniel Paille and a 30-save performance by Ryan Miller.

Thomas Vanek broke a second-period tie for the Sabres, who have earned nine of 10 possible points since losing 12 of 13 — including the first two on a seven-game road trip — to fall into the Northeast Division cellar. Buffalo, which arrived in Boston in 11th place in the East, is four points behind the eighth-place Bruins for the last playoff spot.

''After the first two games (of the road trip), we knew we needed to pick it up,'' Paille said.

''We're not in a playoff spot yet, so we've got to keep it up.''

Paille and Boston’s P.J. Axelsson scored in the first period before Vanek put Buffalo ahead to stay at 5:44 of the second period by tipping Drew Stafford’s pass between Tim Thomas’ legs. Paille and Toni Lydman added late goals for the Sabres before Mark Stuart scored with one second remaining.

''It was one team hungrier than the other,'' Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ''They fought for their lives. They needed to get back into the race. And we didn't respond well enough to the challenge.''

The Bruins lost consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 8-10.
   
Kings 4, Rangers 2 | Video

Members of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants dropped the puck at Madison Square Garden, but it was the Kings who got to celebrate after winning in their first trip to New York since Oct. 25, 2002.

Los Angeles had the game’s first 10 shots on goal and jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals by Scott Thornton and rookie Brian Boyle. Alexander Frolov scored in the second period, helping the Kings survive a 24-shot barrage by the Rangers, and Anze Kopitar added a third-period goal that quieted the Garden crowd.

The Kings, still the owners of the NHL’s worst record, are 7-3-1 in their last 11 games. The play of Frolov and Kopitar is a big reason for the surge.

''These guys are very good,'' Kings coach Marc Crawford said. ''Their puck-protection skills are at a level of elite players. They protect the puck as well as Jaromir (Jagr) does. They may not have the offensive creativity yet as Jaromir, but they are still young, still developing. They've got tons of talent.''

Chris Drury and Sean Avery scored for New York, which had won three straight and five of the last six but was unable to dig out of the early hole and fell to 0-4-1 in its last five meetings with the Kings.

''We were playing a team that was just getting better and had nothing to lose,'' Rangers coach Tom Renney said. ''For a lot of them, it's their first game at Madison Square Garden. We needed a start to possibly put them on their heels.''

Instead, it was the Rangers who struggled to catch up.

''I thought we should have jumped on them to get a lead, but it was the other way around'' Jagr said. ''I don't think we had the energy. It's not like we didn't want to do it.''

The Kings also got an excellent performance by goaltender Jason LaBarbera, a former Ranger. He stopped 37 shots, including 23 in the second period.

“Our record is not great,” Kopitar said, “but the team is showing character and playing really hard now.''

Red Wings 3, Wild 2, OT | Video

Brett Lebda scored 1:37 into overtime to give the Detroit Red Wings a 3-2 comeback win over the Minnesota Wild.

Even on a night when they don’t play well, the Red Wings find ways to win. The leader in the overall standings got the game-tying goal by Dan Cleary with 1:20 left in regulation and the winner from Brett Lebda 1:37 into overtime, shocking the sellout crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

After being outplayed in the first 40 minutes, the Red Wings outshot Minnesota 16-3 in the third period and tied the game when Cleary's low angle shot surprised Nicklas Backstrom and squeaked through his five-hole to tie the game at 2-2.

“That puck had eyes,'' Wild center Eric Belanger said. ''That's why you're disappointed more than anything else. When a goal like that goes in you're like, 'Are you kidding me?'

''We worked those guys hard all night and a fluky goal like that goes in to go to overtime, so that was really tough to swallow.''

Lebda won it when slipped in the back door and took a perfect pass from Henrik Zetterberg to score his third goal of the season.

''We know we didn't have our stuff. We didn't have the jump we normally have, but that's why we have Dom back there,” Lebda said of Wings goalie Dominik Hasek, who finished with 24 saves. “Dom played an unbelievable game and kept us in there the whole time. He gave us a chance to win tonight, and he's got to be credited for it.''
   
Hasek continued his dominance of Minnesota, increasing his career unbeaten streak against the Wild to 12 games. He made the save of the night 51 seconds into overtime, sliding over at the last instant to stop a shot by Brent Burns and keep the game going.
   
''We could have scored four, five goals very easily,'' Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.

''He was outstanding at times. We had great chances.''
   
The Wild outplayed the Wings through the first two periods, overcoming an early goal by Johan Franzen with tallies by Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston.
   
''We weren't Red Wing-like, in my opinion, for the first two periods,'' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ''We're a better hockey team than that.''
   
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Wild, who entered 7-3 in their last 10 but lost for the first time in 23 games this season when leading after two periods.
   
But the Wild took consolation in what called the team's best game of the season against the NHL’s best team.
   
''It's disappointing, but I'm really happy with the way our players respond through the whole game,'' Lemaire said. ''We played hard, they really played hard. We got a point.''
   
Panthers 8, Maple Leafs 0 | Video
   
Florida scored early and often at Air Canada Centre, making life easy for goaltender Tomas Vokoun and miserable for the sellout crowd that saw the Leafs absorb their worst loss of the season.
   
''The coaches really stressed to keep going and not let them back into the game,'' said forward Brett McLean, who scored the final goal. ''We've had a couple games this year where we have had leads in the second and third periods and we have let teams creep back in, so we really wanted to keep our foot on the gas pedal and we obviously did that.''
   
Richard Zednik led the way with three goals. Nathan Horton, Olli Jokinen, Cory Murphy and Steve Montador also scored for Florida, which has won three in a row and moved within a point of the lead in the tightly packed Southeast Conference.
   
''I think right now we're a little bit shell-shocked,'' Toronto defenseman Hal Gill said.
   
Zednik scored 6:31 into the game before the Panthers blew it open with goals in the middle period by Horton, Jokinen and Murphy.
   
''The second period, we just got our confidence checked and it wasn't there,'' Gill said. ''We just started doing things that we can't do as a team to win and they took advantage of it. I hate when it snowballs like that, but that's what happened.”
   
Zednik scored twice in Florida’s four-goal third period. Vokoun finished with 23 saves for the easy shutout.
   
Shortly after, Zednik scored power-play goals a minute apart to complete the hat trick and make it 7-0. McLean's goal made it 8-0 with 2:54 left — causing the sellout crowd at Air Canada Centre to erupt into a mock cheer.
   
''That was clearly worse than booing,'' coach Paul Maurice said.
   
Lightning 5, Blues 4 | Video

Tampa's Martin St. Louis is congratulated by teammates Vincent Lecavalier and Chris Gratton after scoring a goal in the Lightning's 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Tampa Bay won its first visit to St. Louis on Oct. 13, 1992, and didn’t win again until Tuesday, when Paul Ranger’s two goals helped the Lightning to their fifth straight road victory.
   
Jason Ward’s first goal in six weeks, a shot from the slot that ticked off a Blues defenseman and into the net, broke a 2-2 tie 4:25 into the third period. Ranger and Nick Tarnasky scored to make it 5-2 with 5:05 remaining.
   
''Any time a goal goes in when you haven't scored in a long time, it feels nice,'' said Ward, who hadn’t scored since Dec. 20. ''It feels like a little weight is lifted off your shoulders. I want to continue doing the same thing and hopefully things will start rolling for me.''
Jamal Mayers scored seven seconds after Tarnasky’s goal to cut the margin to two, and David Perron beat Johan Holmqvist with 22.1 seconds remaining, but the Lightning held on.

''They had some lucky breaks,'' said Blues goalie Manny Legace, who stopped 19 shots. ''I thought we outplayed them. They got the breaks, and that's the difference in the game.''
   
The Lightning also own road victories during this streak over Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Florida and the New York Rangers during their streak. Tampa Bay still has the worst road record in the NHL at 8-14-2.
   
''I think we're trying to simplify things on the road,'' said Holmqvist, who has won five of his last six decisions. ''For the most part, we try to keep it simple. That's the way we have to do it.''
   
The Blues, who dropped their ninth game in the last 11, also got goals from Brad Boyes and Keith Tkachuk

''You shouldn't have to score as many goals as we've had to score to get points at home,'' Blues coach Andy Murray said.
   
Despite the victory, Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella was not pleased with his team's play, especially down the stretch.
 
''You can't even enjoy a win,'' Tortorella said. ''It's just awful. It's just no pride in detail.''

Predators 1, Hurricanes 0 | Video
   
Nashville turned a rare visit from Carolina into its fourth straight victory as Chris Mason stopped 31 shots and J.P. Dumont scored the game’s only goal with 8:01 left in regulation.
   
The game became secondary late in the third period when announcements were made at the Sommet Center that downtown Nashville was under a tornado warning. Fans were told to stay in the arena until given permission to leave.
   
After the final buzzer, it was again announced that no one would leave the arena until there was news that the weather threat had passed. The fans were evacuated from the main seating area after the game, and allowed to leave the arena shortly after.
Fans and players could hear the thunder and the warning sirens.
   
''One of the referees came over with nine minutes to go and said we might have to evacuate because of the weather,'' Predators coach Barry Trotz said. ''At that time, it was still 0-0 and some of the guys on the bench thought maybe each team would be given a point and we would right to the shootout.''
   
Mason got his fourth shutout of the season in Carolina’s first visit to the Sommet Center since Dec. 3, 2002.
   
''I was seeing the puck well and the guys were letting me see it,'' Mason said. ''We contained rebounds and eliminated second chances. I need to start playing like this every night. I need to give the team a chance to win.''
   
Dumont got the game’s only goal when he skated in on the left side of the slot, Jason Arnott passed the puck across the crease from the right circle and Dumont beat Cam Ward with a one-timer that went between his stick and the post.

''It was pretty much a three-man breakaway,'' Dumont said. ''It was a great play all around. We know when we play all together we are going to be a tough team to beat.''
The Hurricanes were most worried about missed opportunities both offensively and defensively.

''For the most part, I think we played pretty strong defensively up until the goal in the third period,'' Ward said. ''We can't afford to be giving up a 3-on-1 in a tied hockey game late in the third period.

''I don't think anyone is going to be satisfied with the way things went. We've got to score goals and pay the price to get in front of the net to try to get those dirty goals.''
   
Stars 3, Canucks 2, SO | Video

Brenden Morrow scored in the sixth round of the shootout against Roberto Luongo to lift the Dallas Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Brenden Morrow isn’t one of Dallas’ shootout stars. But he came through in the sixth round against Roberto Luongo to give the Stars — the best shootout team since the NHL adopted the shootout in 2005 — their fourth straight victory.

''I'm terrible at it in practice,'' said Morrow, who also had a goal in regulation. ''I'm a traditionalist, so I'm still not used to having a skills competition deciding a game. I'll admit it's exciting, but it's not my thing. But when I'm called upon, I feel comfortable doing it.''

Jussi Jokinen got the shootout under way for Dallas by beating Luongo, but Markus Naslund answered in the first round for Vancouver. Neither team could convert in the next four rounds until Morrow went high with a shot that got past Luongo and glanced off the crossbar and into the net. That helped the Stars improve to 5-2 in shootouts this season and 26-7 in the three-year history of the tiebreaker.

''I knew I wanted to go high and I wanted to make sure I put it on net,'' Morrow said.
Said Luongo: ''When the guy puts it off the bar, there's not much you can do. It was a great shot.''

Marty Turco denied Taylor Pyatt in the sixth round, assuring the victory. Turco also made 22 saves.

''It's just 'mano a mano', and you just read and react and try to make stops,'' Turco said of the shootout.

Jere Lehtinen added a power-play goal for the Stars, who stretched their Pacific Division lead to four points over the San Jose Sharks. Naslund scored twice for the slumping Canucks, who have lost four in a row and are 1-5-3 in their last nine games.
   
The Canucks’ defense was without five regulars, but Luongo said the injuries on the back line didn’t matter.
   
''It's not an excuse,'' Luongo said. ''It doesn't matter who you play back there. I wish (reporters) would stop asking me that. The young guys did a good job stepping up.”

Flames 4, Coyotes 3, SO
| Video
   
The Flames and their captain, Jarome Iginla, both ended scoring droughts as Calgary overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Phoenix in a shootout. Iginla tied the game with nine seconds left, then got the shootout winner.
   
Phoenix led 3-0 after 40 minutes as rookie Peter Mueller scored all three goals for his second NHL hat trick.
   
Calgary finally got on the scoreboard at 7:01 of the third period when Dion Phaneuf converted a pass from Alex Tanguay on a power play. The goal ended a stretch of 141 minutes and 24 seconds since the last Flames goal, which was scored by Daymond Langkow in the second period of Saturday night's 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.
   
"We had some good pressure, we just kept coming," Iginla said. "That power- play goal (by Phaneuf) was the big boost for us. We felt that if we got one, we could get back into the game."
   
The Flames then drew to within one on Phaneuf's second of the night. As he prepared to unload a slap shot, his stick broke instead — sending the puck slowly along the ice where it fooled Ilya Bryzgalov, trickling between his legs.
   
With goalie Miikka Kiprusoff on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Iginla scored his first goal in 11 games, snapping a wrist shot past Bryzgalov from the left circle.
   
"It was a nice play by (Robin Regehr) to keep it (inside the zone)," Iginla said. "I just tried to turn around and shoot. Sometimes the ones you don't expect to go in find their way."
   
After a scoreless overtime, Iginla, the third Calgary shooter, scored on a deke to his backhand to put the Flames into the lead. Steven Reinprecht missed the net on Phoenix's final shootout attempt, giving Calgary the victory.
   
The loss "is tough to explain,” Mueller said. "It just seemed like we stood back when they came out hard in the third. We need to play the final 20 minutes just as hard as we played the first 40 minutes."

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

Quote of the Day

I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets