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Ovechkin leads Caps to 4-2 win over Wings

by John Kreiser
Alex Ovechkin wasn't fully awake when the puck dropped for the Washington Capitals' game against Detroit at 12:37 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, his alarm clock went off in time to win the game.

Ovechkin snapped a tie when he scored a spectacular goal with 7:08 left in regulation, then added a power-play goal 76 seconds later to give the Caps a 4-2 victory.

The reigning Hart Trophy winner conceded that early starts aren't his favorite thing.

"I can’t remember when I played a game at 12:30. I think in the first two periods I did not have a lot of chances and I was still kind of sleepy," Ovechkin admitted.

But No. 8 sent a charge through the Verizon Center crowd when he appeared to have overskated a feed from Viktor Kozlov while racing down left wing -- but reached back, kicked the puck back through his legs and onto his stick, then used defenseman Brian Rafalski as a screen before zipping a low shot into the far corner past Ty Conklin to break a 2-2 tie.

"It just happens. It's just a moment. I tell Conklin, 'It's coming, it's coming -- and it's coming in the third period.'" Ovechkin said of another brilliant individual effort.

Ovechkin then took the NHL lead with his 33rd goal when he popped home Nicklas Backstrom's rebound to give the Caps some insurance.

"Alex is one of those big-game guys," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You keep throwing him out there and throwing (him) out there and eventually good things will happen."

It was a frustrating afternoon for the Wings, who shut down Ovechkin for most of the game only to have him come alive and hand them their fifth consecutive loss.

"When you think of dominating a game, I don't think Ovie did that tonight. They pay him to score -- and that's what he did at the end," Red Wing coach Mike Babcock said.

Added Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom: "I thought we did a good job on their top line for the first two periods, but he's a sniper. He doesn't need much to score goals."

The Red Wings, who had won three straight against Washington, lost to the Capitals for the first time since Nov. 24, 2003.

"It's a huge victory for us," Ovechkin said. "It gives us a lot of confidence. They were missing a couple of players, but it's very important to play an experienced team and this game meant a lot to us."

The Caps had been 1-9 with a tie in their last 11 home games against the defending Stanley Cup champs.

"It's a good measuring stick to see how you match up to the Stanley Cup champs," Washington defenseman Tom Poti said. "A lot of guys had this game circled on the calendar. It's a game we were ... obviously jacked up for."

Before Ovechkin took over, the game was marked by end-to-end rushes, solid goaltending and a lot of chances -- but only two goals apiece.

An end-to-end first period characterized by prolonged rushes and near misses culminated in the teams trading goals during a 57-second span.

Rookie Ville Leino, making his NHL debut, put the Red Wings ahead 1-0 at 18:06 of the opening period when he took a pass from Pavel Datsyuk down the left wing, spun around and backed toward the goal, then slipped a backhander past Jose Theodore.

The lead lasted only 57 seconds. Kozlov tied it when her tipped Milan Jurcina's one-timer from the right point past Conklin.

It was much the same in the second period -- lots of chances but no goals until Washington's Mike Green and Detroit's Johan Franzen scored 1:51 apart.

Washington had killed off two penalties before Green beat Conklin from between the circles, converting Backstrom's falling-down feed from the left circle at 17:19. But with Alexander Semin off for hooking, Franzen tied it by backhanding a rebound past Theodore.

Three Washington penalties in the final 1:38 and the Red Wings' decision to pull Conklin for an extra skater late meant Detroit skated the final 1:07 with a three-man advantage. But Washington's defense collapsed around Theodore, who finished with 25 saves, to preserve the lead and extend Detroit's slide.

"Maybe it’s just one of those times," Conklin said of the Wings' slump. "Everyone goes through stretches where things don’t happen the way you want them to, whether it’s a forward, defenseman or goalie. As a team, that’s how we feel right now."

The only bad news for Ovechkin is that the Caps have another early start on Sunday, when the Ottawa Senators visit the Verizon Center for a 12:30 game.

"Tomorrow we have the same time," he said. "We have to forget this game right now and concentrate on new game."
Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.

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