It’s a pretty safe bet that Alexander Ovechkin will lead the Washington Capitals
in scoring when the 2007-08 season comes to a close. But after struggling for much of the first two months of the season, the all-hands-on-deck approach interim coach Bruce Boudreau
has implemented could have the Caps back in the Eastern Conference playoff race sooner rather than later.
After notching two assists in regulation, defenseman Mike Green capitalized after Brendan Shanahan slipped at the Capitals’ blue line and scored at 3:41 of overtime to give Washington a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night.
The Capitals, who erased an early 2-0 deficit, remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference with a 12-17-2 record, but Wednesday was their fourth win in five games. With plenty of season left, the Caps believe they’re still alive in the playoff race. They improved to 6-3-1 since Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon behind the bench on Nov. 22.
''Hearing him behind us, 'Keep your heads up,' and 'We need to get two goals' -- that was the bottom line,'' Green said. ''We just had faith we were going to win the game, and good things happen when you have faith.''
The team-wide contributions will certainly help Ovechkin, who scored his 22nd goal of the season in the third period. After the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Scott Gomez and Martin Straka, the Caps fought back thanks to Joe Motzko’s first two tallies of the season.
"Scoring by committee is something we need, because we've got to take some of the pressure off Ovie," said Caps forward Brooks Laich, whose second assist of the game set up Green’s game-winner. "He does the job most nights, but for us to win consistently, we need goals from three, four lines."
Meanwhile, the Rangers are struggling. Wednesday marked their fourth loss in five games, and Tom Renney’s club lacked the killer instinct after taking the early two-goal lead.
“I think we got comfortable,” Renney said. “We got a lead, and we thought we’d get two more points. You don’t get anywhere without hard work. This is a good team. They’re playing for a ton of points. There’s a ton of hockey for Washington to play and be a playoff team. We played like we already secured one.”
The game became a seesaw affair after Motzko’s two goals made it 2-2 entering the third period. Ovechkin gave the Capitals their first lead of the night 4:36 into the period, deflecting Green’s slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist, but Straka got his second goal of the night less than four minutes later to make it 3-3.
Jeff Schultz put Washington in front again when he scored for the third time in as many games at 9:31. Schultz had never even scored in back-to-back contests until this current streak.
''They're a team that creates shots from everywhere,'' said Lundqvist, who faced 18 shots in the first period and 35 overall.
Renney absolved his goaltender of any blame for the team’s defensive struggles.
“What can you say about Henrik? We weren’t very good in front of him,” Renney said. “We gave pucks between the dots all the way up and down the ice tonight. We’ve got to be better than that in front of him. It’s got nothing to do with Henrik Lundqvist. It’s got everything to do with the skaters in front of him.”
Shanahan tied it at 4-4 when he scored his 11th goal of the season at 12:43 of the third, but his unfortunate mishap in overtime led to the game-winner.
With the puck in the Washington zone, Shanahan stumbled and fell to the ice, allowing Green and Laich to come down on a 2-on-1. The latter sent the cross-ice feed to Green, who ripped a gorgeous wrist shot past Lundqvist that sent the water bottle on top of the net flying.
“Just part of the game sometimes,” Shanahan said of his untimely tumble. “I just lost my footing. We started out great, but we put ourselves in a position where we kept on having to play catch-up hockey. I like the fact that we fought back and we came back twice in the third period to tie it up. We got a point, but I don’t know whether we really deserved to win.”
With three days to make adjustments before they host the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday, Renney plans on using this free time to see to it that his team plays with more intelligence on a more consistent basis.
“I’m not sure if I’m disturbed or perturbed,” Renney said. “We just weren’t very smart. I thought we handled the puck poorly, we managed it poorly. Disjointed line changes. We had defensemen caught out for two-minute shifts because we couldn’t get out of our own end. We just weren’t very bright tonight. We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t appear on the radar moving forward, or we’re going to have problems.”
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.