THE RESULT: Up until 31.1 seconds remaining in overtime, Pascal LeClaire, the Ottawa Senators' goalie, had played a terrific game. He'd made several quality saves in a close, tense contest.
But with just half a minute left, Alex Ovechkin took a pass from John Carlson, broke in on the right wing, gave a quick feint that defenseman Chris Phillips bit on, and sent a low, not terribly hard shot toward LeClaire right along the ice.
And LeClaire whiffed.
The puck went right between his legs, his paddle raised in front of him.
It's a save that NHL goalies make 99 times out of 100. But not tonight.
LeClaire wasn't screened. He wasn't looking at a cutting winger. He wasn't distracted in any way. But he failed to make the save, and the Washington Capitals escaped with a 3-2 overtime win, before an announced crowd of 18,398 at Verizon Center.
In the post-game interview, Ovechkin was asked what he saw on the goal. The charismatic winger chuckled and said, "Actually, nothing. I just tried to shoot the puck because I played a minute already and I was kinda tired, just want to shoot the puck and go change. It was a lucky goal and a good win."
Ovechkin had an uneven game, as he had more minutes in penalties (4) than shots (3). But the captain got the job done when it mattered most.
"Only Alex can play like he did and score the overtime goal and be the hero. Go ask him how he played. He'll tell you: Not so good," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But he got the overtime goal and that's what superstars do. That's why he's out in the last minute, because he's got the ability to win you a game."
THE GOOD: Michael Neuvirth. The young goalie was very strong again for the Caps, and while the Caps penalty kill remains perfect for the season, Neuvirth is a big reason for it. Boudreau remarked in the post-game about Neuvirth's strong play. "Really good. He keeps getting better every game. That's a good sign for a young goaltender.
THE BAD: Tyler Sloan. The stats don't really show it (he was +1 for the night), but he played poorly. He got turned around several times by forwards skating right past him, and on two distinct occasions he looked around like he didn't know where he was supposed to be.
I know it's harsh to pick on a No. 7 defenseman pressed into duty due to an injury to a second pairing D-man (Tom Poti nursed an undisclosed lower body injury), but Sloan looked uncomfortable out there tonight.
THE UGLY: Matt Bradley only got 3:23 of ice time, leaving the game with an undisclosed "lower body tweak" according to Boudreau and is listed as "day-to-day". The Caps might be able to afford to miss Bradley against the Sens and the Islanders coming up, but he's an integral part of this team's energy.
THE STATS: Semin (1) from Laich and Fehr. Fehr (2) from Hendricks and Gordon. Ovechkin (3) from Carlson and Schultz. Neuvirth: 29 saves, 2 GA. Penalty kill went 0-for-5, allowing six shot son goal total.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at home against the New York Islanders, who beat the Rangers 6-4 at home tonight.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. Matt Hendricks. He had four blocked shots and the primary assist on Eric Fehr's goal.
2. Eric Fehr. Goal and an assist. He keeps getting into the right places at the right times.
1. Michael Neuvirth. Your best penalty killer has to be your goalie, and again tonight he was.
|Matt Hendricks mucks it up along the boards. (C. Nichols/Caps News Network)|
|Matt Bradley, in one of his few shifts tonight. (C. Nichols/Caps News Network)|
|Ovi spent much of the night off-balance. (C. Nichols/Caps News Network)|