WASHINGTON – Through the Washington Capitals' first five power-play opportunities against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, Alex Ovechkin had very little room to operate.
The Red Wings, cognizant of Ovechkin's NHL-leading 38 goals and 14 power-play goals, shadowed him in an attempt to take away his patented one-timer from the left circle and did so successfully, preventing him from having a shot on goal.
Yet facing a 4-on-3 situation in overtime, Detroit could not utilize that tactic, and with plenty of space, Ovechkin finally broke through. The Capitals captain blasted his 15th career overtime goal – tied for third all-time – past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard at 2:37 to lift Washington to a 6-5 victory at Verizon Center.
"I was pretty much open," Ovechkin said. "Sometimes it's kind of boring when they put one guy close to you and you're basically out of the game."
Joel Ward scored twice to match his career-high in goals, while Jason Chimera, John Carlson and Troy Brouwer scored for Washington, which exacted revenge on Detroit after losing 4-3 in a shootout at Joe Louis Arena on Friday.
Gustav Nyquist earned his first career hat trick for the Red Wings, who overcame three separate two-goal deficits.
"We showed some good resilience [Sunday]," said Howard, who made 22 saves. "We found a way to come back, scrapping and clawing and getting a point. At the same time, we could've easily been walking out of here with two points. I've got to find a way to come up with a couple more saves for the guys."
The Capitals applied ample pressure from the opening faceoff, pinning the Red Wings in their own zone with several dominant shifts. A hardworking shift by the Capitals' third line that left the Red Wings scrambling led to Chimera's 12th goal of the season at 4:43.
Casey Wellman started the flurry by throwing a shot wide of the net, which Connor Carrick retrieved before throwing a backhanded pass towards Ward in the crease. Ward's shot ricocheted off the far post and toward the right faceoff circle, where Chimera was waiting to beat Howard with a sharp-angle shot.
"The games that we've been coming out hard, we've had better success," Ward said. "I think in Detroit last game, even though we came up short, I thought we started off well. It just gets everybody into it. First shift was great. Seeing how your linemates and teammates are battling out there, you want to kind of follow that up as best you can and keep the ball rolling."
Ward extended Washington's lead to 2-0 less than three minutes later on the power play, receiving a pass from Marcus Johansson in the slot and rifling it past Howard.
The Red Wings, who were held without a shot on goal until the first period was nearly nine minutes old, were able to cut into their early deficit at 11:40. With Carrick in the penalty box for cross-checking Tomas Jurco, Detroit needed only nine seconds to score. Michal Neuvirth (25 saves) stopped Daniel Alfredsson's shot, but the rebound popped out right to Nyquist in the slot.
Nyquist's goal could not have come at a better time for the Red Wings, who entered the game having been shut out in three consecutive road games for the first time since 1928. The goal snapped Detroit's scoreless streak at 194:14.
Carlson restored the Capitals' two-goal lead at 16:05 with a slap shot from the high slot, setting a career high with his 10th goal. Ovechkin had a prime chance to give his team a 4-1 lead on his team's third power-play opportunity in the closing seconds of the first period, but his slap shot sailed over a wide-open net as time expired.
There were noticeably fewer scoring chances in the second period than the first. Neither team broke through until the final 6:30, when the Red Wings sandwiched Ward's second goal of the game with two of their own.
First, Tomas Tatar scored off the rush, his wrist shot clipping Neuvirth's blocker and finding its way into the back of the net. Nineteen seconds later, however, Ward crashed the crease for his 17th of the season, tying his career high set in 2008-09 as a member of the Nashville Predators.
"Since last year, we've asked him to play more involved," Capitals coach Adam Oates said of Ward, who has four goals in his past three games. "I just know from myself, I've asked him to be more involved in our team. He's a good hockey player. … We need production. We need you to help the other guys out. We've got [Ovechkin], we've got [Brouwer], we need you to be a goal-scoring threat."
Not to be outdone, Nyquist scored his second of the game at 18:49 when he tipped in Henrik Zetterberg's feed through the crease past Neuvirth. Just 42 seconds into the third period, Nyquist struck again in nearly identical fashion when he tipped another Zetterberg pass past Neuvirth on the rush to complete the hat trick.
"He's always been great," Zetterberg said of Nyquist. "He always creates a lot of stuff. [Now] he's putting up the points too. It's always fun to see him score. He does a lot of good things and he's got the right the mindset."
Brouwer broke the tie at 4:28, pouncing on a turnover, but Justin Abdelkader responded at 6:25, sliding a backhand past the reach of Neuvirth.
With the victory, the Capitals moved within one point of the Red Wings for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"Every point right now counts," Ovechkin said. "It's a good two points. I think next game we are going to feel pretty better, and everything right now has to work fine for us."