One of the appeals of professional sports is that every time you go to the arena, field or court, you might see something you've never seen before in your life. Alex Ovechkin's game-winning goal in the third period was one of those moments.

Defenseman Bryan Helmer pushed the puck along the boards where Ovechkin collected it. The reigning NHL MVP deked defenseman Henrik Tallinder, then while Tallender was regaining his balance, slid the puck off his back hand through Tallinder's legs just inside the blue line, putting the puck on Ovechkin's forehand.

Tallinder got part of a check on Ovechkin as the left winger was going by, and as he fell to his knees, the "Great Eight" got enough on his shot to beat goalie Patrick Lalime short side, taking a 3-1 lead.

The three goals would stand up, as the Caps held off a late third period flurry to defeat the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, before 18,277 at the Verizon Center.

Ovechkin appeared to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead late in the second period, but a goalie interference call against teammate Brooks Laich negated it, motivating Ovechkin even further.

Washington (22-11-3-45, first in Southeast) received goals from Viktor Kozlov and Boyd Gordon in addition to Ovechkin's marker, and veteran minor leaguer Bryan Helmer chipped in two assists.

Helmer, 36, was recently named as one of the captains in the AHL All Star game in January, but he'll gladly trade that honor for more nights like tonight in the NHL.

Jose Theodore turned away 22 of the 24 shots he faced, but he certainly could not be faulted for the second goal.

Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman misfired on a slap shot from the point and the puck hit Maxim Afinogenov, who was trying to simply get out of the way. The puck then managed to bounce behind Theodore, pulling Buffalo (16-14-5-37, third in Northeast) to within one goal.

The Caps would stymie the Sabres for the remaining 1:49 and extend their home record to 14-1-1, best in the Eastern Conference. Carolina knocked off Atlanta, keeping pace with the Caps, eight back in the Southeast Division race.

Photo by AP.

WAS: Kozlov (9) from Backstrom and Helmer (2-17:46); Gordon (3) from Jurcina (3-1:58); Ovechkin (23) from Helmer (3-8:27)

BUF: Vanek (25) from Stafford and Spacek (3-6:13-PP); Afinogenov (2) from Lydman and Kotalik (3-18:11)

1. B. Helmer - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
2. D. Brashear - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 0)
3. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

Caps' Captain Chris Clark returned from the Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) after missing 14 games with a stress fracture in his forearm.

Washington out shot Buffalo 34-24.

Sergei Fedorov has been put on LTIR, retroactive to Dec. 14th. He is eligible to return Jan. 9 vs. Columbus.

Game 36 Preview: Caps Host Buffalo Sabres

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 26, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (21-11-3-45, first in Southeast) host the Buffalo Sabres (16-13-5-37, third in Northeast) at 7:00 PM from Verizon Center.

The Capitals enter play tonight winners of nine of their last 11 games, including Tuesday's come-from-behind 5-4 OT win over the New York Rangers. Down 4-0, the Caps completed the comeback with the overtime winner from Shaone Morrisonn, the defenseman's first goal of the season.

Alex Ovechkin started and capped the comeback, netting the team's first and fourth goals, while Tomas Fleischmann and Viktor Kozlov chipped in as well.

Jose Theodore got the win, despite allowing goals on three of the first five shots he faced and being lifted in the first period. He would return to start the second period and give up one more goal, but thereafter shut the door on the Blueshirts, allowing his skaters to collect goals and, ultimately, victory.

The Caps continue to be plagued by injury. Brent Johnson becomes the latest addition to the injury list, as he will sit out tonight. The team recalled Simeon Varlamov from Hershey to back up Theodore tonight. With another game Sunday, Varlamov might stick around for a few games.

In addition to Johnson, also missing tonight are: Mike Green (shoulder), John Erskine (concussion), Jeff Schultz (broken finger), Sergei Fedorov (ankle), Alexander Semin (back), Tom Poti (groin) and Tomas Fleischmann (flu).

The team does benefit from the return of its captain, Chris Clark. Clark comes off the Long Term Injury List (LTIR) with the broken forearm. Donald Brashear also returns from an injured leg.

Andrew Gordon, Bryan Helmer and Alexander Giroux were all recalled from Hershey (AHL) to fill out the roster.

Buffalo has lost three out of their last four games, including back-to-back OT losses to Montreal and Pittsburgh their last two times out. They are hit pretty hard by the injury bug too, missing four of their regulars, including veteran defenseman Craig Rivet.

The Sabres are led on offense by Tomas Vanek, second in the league in goals scored with 24, though he has just 6 assists. Derek Roy (11-19-30, +1) and Jason Pominville (9-17-26, -1) are Vanek's set-up men.

Ryan Miller is the starting goalie for Buffalo. One of the league's best, Miller is 14-9-5 with a 2.61 GAA and .911 save percentage. Patrick Lalime (2-4-2, 3.09, .888) is the little-used veteran backup.

WAS: PP-5th (23.0%, 34/148); PK-24th (80.0%, 34/170)
BUF: PP-13th (18.7%, 19/155); PK-3rd (87.0%, 18/138)

WAS: D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-Out); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-OUT); G Brent Johnson (Hip-OUT); D Mike Green (Shoulder-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-OUT); LW Alexander Semin (Back-OUT)

BUF: D Craig Rivet (Upper body-IR); C Tim Connolly (Ribs-IR); C Paul Gaustad (Upper body-Questionable); C Nathan Gerbe (Upper body-IR); C Jochen Hecht (Ear-Questionable); RW Patrick Kaleta (Head-Out)

Game 35 Review: OT Goal Completes Stunning Comeback

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | | 0 comments »

I won't have a full review today since a) I'm on vacation; b) I'm on a really lousy hotel internet connection; and c) I didn't see the game.

However, from all accounts the Caps played lousy in the beginning, stemming from poor goaltending, the Rangers folded, the Caps scored a bunch of third period goals and got an unlikely hero in OT.

Does that sum it up?

The most exciting team in hockey? Indeed.

If this team is going to be successful deep into the playoffs, they will need to address the goaltending situation. Theodore is a shell of what he once was. I didn't need to see today's game to be able to make that statement. All season he's played poorly and without confidence.

The Caps have proven over the last month or so that they can score and have some pretty impressive organizational depth. If they could ever get healthy they have a package of some of the most talented players in the league.

But they need to get better between the pipes. They can have all the talent in the world, but shoddy goaltending can derail any team's playoff aspirations. This team has too much talent to let that happen.