Capitals rewarded by Oates' late decision

Capitals rewarded by Oates' late decision
November 12, 2013, 10:30 pm
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Ovi scores game winner in OT, Caps win 4-3

(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

Sometimes, coaches let players make decisions for them and walk away looking like geniuses.

That was the case Tuesday night at Verizon Center following the Capitals’ emotional 4-3 overtime victory against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the span of five minutes, the Capitals saw a one-goal lead turn into a one-goal deficit, only to be resurrected by a goal by Mikhail Grabovski with 1:45 remaining in regulation.

Oates rewarded Grabovski by letting him start the overtime period with Nicklas Backstrom. That spot usually belongs to Alex Ovechkin and the switch ultimately worked in the Caps’ favor.

Ovechkin was paired with forward Marcus Johansson in the overtime period and the two combined for Ovechkin’s game-winner 1:34 into the extra period as the Caps snapped a two-game losing steak and sent their fans cheering all the way onto F Street.

Johansson used a burst of speed down the left wing boards to avoid a check from Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski and get a shot on Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

“JoJo did a great job, fighting through [Wisniewski’s check] and after that I have to go to the net and find a rebound,” Ovechkin said of his 14th goal of the season. “I get a lucky puck. It bounced right to my stick.”

Oates said Ovechkin’s goal was more than luck, saying if he doesn’t hit the brakes in front of Bobrovsky he doesn’t score.

“Ovi stopped in front and got rewarded for it,” Oates said. “He flies by and no chance there.”

Oates said he was happy to see the Caps be resilient enough to get an overtime win in a game they were 1:45 away from losing in regulation.

But he was not happy with the way the Blue Jackets took a 3-2 lead with 5:41 to play in the third period. That’s when a Capitals offensive zone giveaway led to Cam Atkinson’s breakaway goal.

Caps defenseman Mike Green failed to corral a bouncing puck on the goal but Oates said it was a play by the Caps’ top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Marty Erat that led to the scoring chance.

“We broke down there,” Oates said. “A guy is kind of open, but late in a game “kind of” isn’t good enough.”

Oates went right back to Green following that play and the nine-year veteran assisted on Grabovski’s game-tying goal.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” Oates said. “Your reputation precedes you. You’re out there for a reason. I expect him on the next shift to do something to counter that. That’s why he is who he is. He has a leash and he’s earned it.”