WASHINGTON -- Recently, Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates made it clear that he wants his team, fully capable of scoring in bunches, to grow accustomed to playing tighter, one-goal games.
After relinquishing a third-period lead and falling behind in a five-minute span, the Capitals battled back, tying the game with less than two minutes remaining and winning it on an Alex Ovechkin goal as they rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
"That's a playoff game," Oates said. "It just happens to be now, but we need [these] points, and you have to put yourself into position. Hockey is getting that way every night. We've been talking about that for two weeks. Every night it's a grind."
Mikhail Grabovski tied the game with 1:45 left on his sixth goal of the season, and Ovechkin tied Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues and injured Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos for the League goal-scoring lead with his 14th when he put Marcus Johansson's rebound past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (30 saves).
“[Johansson] did a great job," Ovechkin said. "And after that I have to go to the net and find a rebound. I get a lucky puck, bounce right to my stick, and we go. It's always nice to score, and [with an] overtime goal you can feel your best."
Shortly after Bobrovsky was penalized for shooting the puck over the glass, Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky broke a scoreless tie 7:50 into the second period with a shorthanded goal. Mark Letestu's wrist shot, blocked by Capitals defenseman Mike Green, ricocheted high off the glass and settled behind the net, where Dubinsky and Troy Brouwer went to retrieve the loose puck. Dubinsky won the ensuing battle, and with plenty of room to maneuver, he wrapped around the net uncontested and slid a backhanded shot past a sprawling Braden Holtby (24 saves) for his fifth goal of the season.
Washington tied the game over six minutes later thanks to an impressive individual effort by Martin Erat. Despite being closely shaded by Dalton Prout as he drove to the net, Erat was able to chip a pass over to John Carlson, who had a wide-open net after Bobrovsky's attempt to smother the puck failed. Carlson's goal was his fourth in six games; he has four of the five goals by Washington defensemen on the team's current roster.
Not to be outdone by Dubinsky's shorthanded goal, Joel Ward gave the Capitals their first lead of the game at 8:56 of the third period with a shorthanded goal of his own when he took advantage of a Bobrovsky miscue behind the net. With the goal, his ninth of the season, Ward surpassed his total from all of 2012-13.
But Jared Boll's deflection of James Wisniewski's shot beat Holtby at 11:22 -- the 11th goal that the Capitals have allowed within 2:30 of scoring themselves this season -- and Cam Atkinson raced in to score the go-ahead goal after Dubinsky's pass bounced over Green's stick.
"That's something that we've kind of struggled with at times before in the past where one goal really deflates us," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "Yeah, it was nice to see that. We got really angry on the bench when they took the lead there, and I think it showed out on the ice after that. So that's something that needs to happen whenever they score a goal, whenever we're up at any point in the game, we need to be angry at all times and play really, really hungry."
Washington snapped a two-game losing skid and moved within one point of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus continues to tumble down the division standings and is now in last place after losing six of seven.
"I think we worked pretty hard," Boll said. "Like I said before, those are games that you've got to close out. We had a lead with a couple of minutes to play, and we didn't get the job done. We've got to be better."