RALEIGH, N.C. -- For a moment, Alex Ovechkin thought he had endured the worst kind of luck.
With just over two minutes remaining in a tie game, he had the outcome on his stick and Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis down on his belly.
Ovechkin swiped the puck, first hitting the right post, then watching it creep along the goal line.
"You want to kill yourself if it doesn't go in," Ovechkin said.
The puck didn't go in for Ovechkin, but Mike Ribeiro somehow nudged it across the line for what proved to be the game-winner, giving the Capitals a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes.
The win ended a three-game tailspin for Washington.
The Capitals dug out of a 2-0 first-period hole after goals from Hurricanes forwards Alex Semin and Patrick Dwyer against Michal Neuvirth, starting his first game since Feb. 5.
Joey Crabb scored for Washington in the second, and Ovechkin notched a power-play goal early in the third to draw even.
By then, Washington's slow start was just a memory.
"It shows character," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "Good for them. We got through that little wave and we stayed strong. Neuvirth hadn't played in a while, and he probably wants the second one back. He played really solid after that."
Neuvirth stopped 36 Carolina shots to earn his second win of the season.
"I felt a little rusty, a little nervous," Neuvirth said. "I battled hard and we got the win. It's a huge win."
All the talk after the game surrounded the game-winning goal. Even Ribeiro didn't like his chances in the aftermath of the goal-mouth scramble.
"I wasn't sure [it would count] going to the bench, it happened so quick," Ribeiro said. "I actually missed my shot there. If you look at it at top speed, it doesn't look like it's in. We'll take that. I'll take that too."
As Ribeiro tried to explain his goal, Oates and Ovechkin chatted quietly in the hallway outside the locker room. Some of the exchange was meaningful. Other parts were a bit light-hearted.
"I'm trying to establish a rapport with him so he trusts me," Oates said. "(We discussed) all the little situations in the game -- every little play. And then I was making fun of him that he whiffed it."
Ovechkin had a tough time taking the near-miss in stride. With so much net to shoot at, he felt helpless as he took aim between the pipes.
"I almost fell," Ovechkin said. "My skate -- I stepped in something before that. Thank God it goes in (and) Ribeiro finds the rebound."
As a consolation, Ovechkin can celebrate a milestone. His game-tying goal gave him 700 NHL points. It came on a sniper's shot, after Troy Brower fed him for a blast in the left circle on a power play.
That goal was a sore spot for the Hurricanes. Captain Eric Staal took a high-sticking penalty at the end of the second period, one that proved costly in protecting a 2-1 lead.
"At the end of the period, in the offensive zone like that, it's not the right time," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "He's a veteran guy. He knows that's not a good penalty. It cost us a power-play goal."
The Hurricanes entered the game with wins in six of their past seven. They had won all of their previous 11 games in which they led after two periods.
"We can't be happy," Muller said. "We had a really well-executed first period -- a lot of really good things. We let them back in during the second period, and we got away from it. We had long shifts, turnovers, we stopped shooting the puck -- and these are things you have to learn from. When you have a chance to bury a team, you have to keep with the program and go for that third goal."
The game marked the first time Semin had scored against his former teammates, after signing with the Hurricanes as a free agent this summer. He took a sharp pass from Staal on his first shift of the game, beating Neuvirth in front.
"If we don't play very intense against Semin and Staal … everybody knows how Semin can play," Ovechkin said. "He's a great player. But we have to give him more pressure and play more physical against him. I think we did in the second and third period."
Dwyer extended the lead to 2-0, but that was all the scoring the Hurricanes could muster. Crabb started the comeback early in the second, taking a nice pass from Aaron Volpatti along the wall to cut the lead to 2-1.
"The start was pretty rusty but we did some good things at the end of the first," Volpatti said. "It doesn't matter how we did it, we got it done."
The Capitals lost defenseman Tomas Kundratek in the first period when his leg got tangled under Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner, who was falling to the ice after a check. Oates said Kundratek would undergo an MRI exam.