Washington Capitals right winger Alex Ovechkin has one of the most lethal shots in hockey, and for the second straight game, goaltender Jimmy Howard and the Detroit Red Wings fell victim to it.
Two days after Ovechkin salvaged a point for the Capitals in Detroit by scoring with seven seconds remaining in regulation, the Capitals' 28-year-old captain was at it again on Sunday, scoring a power-play goal 2:37 into overtime to give the Capitals a thrilling 6-5 win over the Red Wings at the Verizon Center.
Ovechkin's goal, his league-leading 39th of the season, came with the Capitals on a 4-on-3 power play following a tripping minor on Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith.
Ovechkin took a cross-ice feed from Capitals defenseman John Carlson and rifled a shot over the right shoulder of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard for the game-winner.
"Great goal. Big goal for us," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "I can't tell you how bad that ice is at that time of the game. It's horrific. So for him to get good wood on it is really difficult, let alone to find that spot."
With Sunday's win, the Capitals (25-22-9, 59 points) got within one point of the Red Wings (24-19-12, 60 points), who moved into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings. The Capitals are now 12-9 in games that go into overtime. The Red Wings are 6-12.
The Red Wings came back from three two-goal deficits but wasted a hat trick by right wing Gustav Nyquist in the loss.
"We showed some good resilience," said Howard, who fell to 10-12-9. "We found a way to come back, scraping and clawing and getting a point. At the same time, we could've easily been walking out of here with two points. I've got to find a way to come up with a couple more saves for the guys."
After seeing the Red Wings rally three times, the Capitals grabbed a 5-4 lead with 4:28 gone in the third period on right winger Troy Brouwer's 11th goal of the season.
Brouwer slipped behind the Red Wings' defense to roof a shot over Howard. But with more than 15 minutes remaining in a back-and-forth contest, that did not figure to be enough for the home team.
Sure enough, the Red Wings tied the score at 5-5 less than two minutes later when left winger Justin Abdelkader finished off a scramble in front, beating Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth with a backhander for his sixth goal of the season.
Both teams generated scoring chances in the final 14 minutes of regulation, but neither could take the lead and the two teams went into overtime for the second straight game.
Nyquist was almost unstoppable in regulation, scoring on three of his five shots and assisting on Abdelkader's game-tying goal in the third period. It was his first career hat trick and his first four-point game.
"He's always been great," said Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg, who assisted on two of Nyquist's goals. "He always creates a lot of stuff. Now he's putting up the points, too. It's always fun to see him score."
In addition to Ovechkin's overtime goal, the Caps received three-point games from right winger Joel Ward (two goals, one assist) and left winger Jason Chimera (one goal, two assists). Defenseman John Carlson and Brouwer also scored for the Capitals, who improved to 3-1-1 in their last five games.
"It was a lot of back and forth, for sure," said Ward, who matched his career high with his 17th goal. "You have to just believe in the process, keep encouraging each other and know it may take the full 60 minutes or overtime."
The Capitals turned to Neuvirth after his 42-save effort Friday night in Detroit, and he was sharp in the first half of the game, snatching a breakaway attempt by left wing Tomas Tatar out of the air to preserve a two-goal lead.
Chimera started his three-point afternoon by scoring his 12th goal of the season 4:43 into the game. Rookie defenseman Connor Carrick threw a pass into the goal crease for Ward, who shoveled the puck to Chimera for an open-net goal.
Chimera returned the favor by setting up Ward for his first goal of the game, a hard snap shot from the slot that beat Howard inside the left post at the 7:20 mark.
It was the first of three two-goal leads by the Capitals in the hockey game.
Detroit got on the board at the 11:40 mark of the first period when Nyquist scored his first of three goals, ending the Red Wings' road scoring drought at 194 minutes, 14 seconds.
Neuvirth made an initial save on Red Wings right winger Daniel Alfredsson, but Nyquist pounced on the rebound for his first of the day and second of the season on the power play.
The Caps restored their two-goal lead when Carlson netted his career-high 10th goal of the season to make it 3-1 heading into the second period.
At that point the Caps were 2-for-3 on the power play and looking for a nail to hammer down the win.
The Red Wings had other ideas and Tatar again narrowed the deficit to one goal with his 13th of the season on a nice feed from center Riley Sheahan with 6:30 gone in the second period.