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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Alex Ovechkin scored 3:19 into overtime, and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 Saturday night to take over the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Ovechkin took a shot from the left circle that glanced off the skate of Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera and past goaltender Jhonas Enroth. Ovechkin celebrated by lifting his left leg high off the ice before staging an impromptu dance near center ice.

The victory gave the Capitals 103 points, one more than idle Philadelphia. Washington has two games left and the Flyers have three.

Twice in the final nine minutes of regulation, the Sabres took a one-goal lead with a power-play goal. On each occasion, Washington scored the tying goal with the extra man.

Paul Gaustad put Buffalo up 3-2 at 12:35, and Mike Knuble answered with his second goal of the game at 14:18. Then, after Drew Stafford received credit for a goal that Washington defenseman John Carlson accidentally kicked into the net, Jason Arnott tied it, scoring his 400th career goal with 51.3 seconds left. .... More

In a game that featured nine goals, five of which came in the third period and overtime, pucks found several different ways to elude goaltenders Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth throughout the night.  The goal that decided the game was no exception, as Alex Ovechkin’s pass attempt from the left face-off circle bounced off a stick and a skate before it slid past Jhonas Enroth to end an exciting, back-and-forth contest between the Sabres and Capitals. The play developed as the Capitals worked the puck around the offensive zone.  Ovechkin gathered it in the corner and skated out, then dragged the puck as he slipped between two defenders.  He spotted John Carlson cutting to the back post and tried to feather a pass to him, and the puck tipped of Jason Pominville’s stick, then re-directed off Andrej Sekera’s skate and ended up in the Buffalo net.

Drew Stafford received extra ice time Saturday in Washington and made the most of it.  The forward, who came into the game averaging 16:20 of ice time per game, played 19:36 in Washington to lead all Sabres forwards and scored a pair of goals to reach the 30-goal milestone for the season and help Buffalo earn a point in a hard-fought overtime loss.  Each of his goals came at crucial times in the game.  The first was scored in the first period to tie the game at two as Buffalo rallied back from an early 2-0 deficit.  His second goal came late in the third period to give the Sabres a 4-3 lead, and it appeared it would be the game-winner until Washington scored in the final minute to force overtime.  Stafford also led the Sabres with six shots on goal.

- The Sabres have gone 12-4-4 over their last 20 games dating back to Feb. 23.

- Jhonas Enroth started in goal for the second straight game as Ryan Miller remains day-to-day with an upper body injury.  Enroth stopped 30 of the 35 shots he faced and is now 6-2-2 on the season.

We didn’t get off to the start we wanted but I thought after that, we worked hard, battled hard. We got back in the game and in the second period I thought we had three or four really good opportunities, and then there were just some really funny goals by both teams.” - Head Coach Lindy Ruff
- Mike Knuble opened the scoring for Washington just 37 seconds into the game.

- The Sabres fell into a quick 2-0 hole less than five minutes into the game, causing Lindy Ruff to use his only timeout.  The Sabres responded by scoring twice in the next five minutes to tie the game at two on goals by Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford.

Thomas Vanek put Buffalo on the board with his 28th goal of the season and the 200th of his NHL career, becoming just the 11th player in Sabres franchise history reach the 200-goal milestone.  Vanek has now registered at least one point in 12 of his last 14 games and extended his current point streak to five games.

- Jason Pominville collected an assist on Vanek’s goal, giving him five points (2-3-5) in the last five games.

- The Sabres closed their season series against the Capitals with a record of 1-2-1.

- Referee Bill McCreary was honored prior to the game as he officiated the final game of his career tonight.

- Andrej Sekera led Buffalo in ice time at 24:30 while also blocking a team-high four shots.

- Ryan Miller (upper body), Jochen Hecht (upper body), Mike Grier (knee), Jordan Leopold (hand) and Patrick Kaleta (bone bruise in leg) were all sidelined for Buffalo. 

- Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn was a healthy scratch.

- Forwards Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle and D.J. King, along with defensemen Dennis Wideman and John Erskine, were out of the lineup for Washington.

In what has been a common occurrence for Buffalo this season, the Sabres will conclude a back-to-back set Sunday in Carolina.  It will be the 21st of their league-high 22 sets of back-to-back games.  The Sabres and Hurricanes have been battling one another for a playoff spot throughout the second half of the season and enter Sunday’s meeting – the fourth of the year between the clubs – separated by just two points in the standings.  Each team will enter with 78 games played on the season, and Carolina has the edge on Buffalo in the season series, winning two of the first three matchups.  The most recent meeting came on Mar. 15 in Buffalo, where Carolina squeezed out a 1-0 victory over the Sabres behind a 40-save performance by netminder Cam Ward.

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