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Green's OT goal lifts Capitals past Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Alex Ovechkin can pass as well as score.

Ovechkin had a pair of goals, increasing his League-leading total to 38, but it was his perfect pass that set up Mike Green's goal 1:00 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 5-4 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

"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 it in or if Alex heard me that ... 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."

Martin Erat forced a turnover at the Washington blue line and fed Ovechkin, who raced down the left side, apparently looking for a hat trick. Instead, as the defense came to him, he found Green cruising down the slot and hit him with a perfect feed that Green rifled past Jhonas Enroth for his second goal of the night and seventh of the season.

"You just want to freeze the goalie," said Ovechkin, whose assist was his second of the night and his 17th of the season. "If the goalie wants to play aggressive you have to wait until he goes and does something. My partner on the other side has to be ready for the pass."

The win was the second in a row for the Capitals (24-21-8) after a seven-game losing streak. The Sabres (14-30-8), who got two goals by Cody Hodgson but never led, have one victory in their past eight games.

"I guess you could say it's good to get the point," Hodgson said. "It's a winnable game for us, especially in the third period, lots of chances. Jhonas made the saves when he needed to. Unfortunately, little mistakes, little breakdowns cost us again."

Enroth had 30 saves and the Sabres' four goals were the most he's had in support this season.

"Washington is a good team and they always have a lot of chances," Enroth said. "I kind of knew it was going to be … a high-scoring game both ways."

Ovechkin got the Capitals off to a fast start by scoring a power-play goal 3:49 into the game. Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to the left of Enroth to Ovechkin, whose slap shot hit the back of the net to make it 1-0. The Capitals' power play entered the night with one goal in its past 31 opportunities.

"We knew kind of how they like to play power plays and Ovechkin is always trying to find that sweet spot and he's always loading up big shots from there," Enroth said. "All the goalies in the League know it's going to come there, but he still scores."

Ovechkin scored again 53 seconds later, tipping Green's wrist shot from the point past Enroth. Marcus Johansson was parked in front of the net and passed out to Green for the shot.

"I feel bad for [Green]," Ovechkin said with a smile. "But you know, it is what it is."

The Sabres cut the deficit to 2-1 at 13:45 when defenseman Christian Ehrhoff scored his fourth goal of the season. Ehrhoff crashed the net following chances by Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson and beat Braden Holtby for his eighth point in the past nine games.

"Their game picked up, we gave them life," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "They scored one, so obviously they're feeling good. We were on our heels a little bit."

The teams traded goals in the second period. Hodgson scored on the power play and Phil Varone scored his first NHL goal for the Sabres.

"Usually when I score, I black out a little bit," Varone said. "This one I kind of took in a little bit, just looked around."

The Capitals got goals from Green and Troy Brouwer to take a 4-3 lead into the third period.

"Sometimes you can think it's going to be an easy game," Brouwer said. "The first 10 minutes we had a lot of possession time, we had a lot of rushes. We weren't in our zone very much and maybe we just thought it was going to be a little easier than we expected."

Green's goal was the 100th of his career.

"A lot, to be honest," Green said when asked what the milestone meant to him. "It's been lingering around a while now. It feels good to get that one. I kept the puck."

Hodgson forced overtime when he beat Holtby with a backhander at 6:48 of the third period for his 14th goal of the season.

"They started pushing in the third and I think it kind of surprised us a bit," said Holtby, who made 23 saves. "Credit to them they did a good job evening up the game to get a point out of it. It's one that's not pretty, not like Montreal [Saturday] night, but they count the same and on nights like tonight we need huge performances like we got from [Green] tonight."

After struggling to score for most of the first three months of the season, the Sabres have scored 24 goals in their past seven games. But they've allowed 29 in that same stretch, during which their only win was a 5-2 road victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"That's our third game in [four] nights," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "We're playing a pretty good hockey team. To control the third period the way we did, you're happy at one point. But on the other side, there are little parts of our game that we have to continue to work on."

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