Overtime in the NHL can be a very nerve-racking time. Especially when your favorite team has lost the lead late in regulation and was doing everything in its power to end a four-game losing streak. Thankfully, Brooks Laich brought a super-sudden end to sudden death, and the Caps could breathe a little easier.
Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich have both been playing pro hockey for quite some time, and it was an ironic twist that both of them would hit the 500-game plateau on the same night.
The Capitals came out with excellent skating legs this evening. They were pushing the pace from the opening draw and generating very good scoring chances as a result. The Caps counter-attacks were much more decisive tonight. Ottawa was not spending any extended amount of time in their offensive zone because the Caps had the puck at the other end of the rink.
Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson each had red-letter chances to score early, but both were denied by Craig Anderson. Anderson and Michal Neuvirth were both on good behavior tonight, for us goalie fans this was a fun one to watch. Neuvirth was very good with his rebound control and he continues to be perfect against the Sens in his career, now 4-0.
Nicklas Backstrom would start the scoring for the Capitals in the opening frame. He moved in on a 2-on-2 break with Ovechkin, and while the defenders backed off him to protect against 8, Backstrom had more than enough wiggle room to rip a wrist shot past Anderson on the glove side.
The Senators, who will host the Caps Wednesday, wasted no time tying the score in the middle period. Erik Karlsson, a whizkid on the Senators blue line, launched a long wrist shot that beat Neuvirth on the glove side. Normally Neuvirth would have made that stop relatively easily, but winger Bobby Butler waved his hockey stick looking for a deflection and his stick seemed to impair Michals view of the puck (it actually looked like Butler tipped it, but the goal stayed Karlssons throughout the night).
With five minutes gone by in the third, the home team took the lead back thanks to a beautiful cross-ice pass from Ovechkin to Troy Brouwer. Brouwer took one extra step out wide before snapping a shot over the glove of Anderson to make it 2-1.
The Caps played a disciplined game tonight only giving Ottawa one power-play attempt, which was critical considering how the Sens thrive on the man-advantage.
Nothing comes easily these days for Washington, and Milan Michalek would suspend the victory party late in the third period. Neuvirth made a terrific first save on noted Caps killer Daniel Alfredsson, only to see Michalek stretch out for a one-handed poke of the puck and the tying goal with only 3:15 left.
With the stage set for overtime drama, Laich did not wait long to bring the curtain down. A skating blunder by Erik Karlsson gave Jason Chimera an open lane into the Ottawa zone. He found Laich on the doorstep for the put-away only 12 seconds into OT, and the Caps league-high fifth win in extra time.
The script came together perfectly at the end tonight. Here was Laich in his 500th NHL game, playing against the team which drafted him, and he turned out to be the hero.
Goodbye losing streak, hello Florida on Monday.
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