Despite allowing the tying goal midway through the third period, the Washington Capitals (43-21-6-92, first in Southeast) defeated the next closest team to them in the division, the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-4 in a shootout.

Alex Ovechkin potted the shootout winner on the Caps third attempt, clinching the two-nil shootout win. Alexander Semin capped his big night (goal, three assists) with an earlier shootout goal on Carolina goalie Cam Ward.

Ward and Caps goalie Jose Theodore both made several spectacular saves throughout the heavy-hitting contest, but both also allowed a couple of goals they will tell you they should have stopped. Theodore saved 25 of 29 shots and Ward made 22 saves.

Carolina really came out hitting in the first period, especially forechecking against the Capitals defense. Washington responded fairly well, as they took a 2-1 lead in the first on goals by Mike Green and Ovechkin. Ovie's goal was on the power play, and his 49th of the season.

The second period was a wild affair, with breakaways aplenty, a ton of penalties and four goals, two by each team.

Alexander Semin notched his 29th of the season, sweeping a rebound of an Ovechkin shot past Ward, and Niklas Backstrom banged home his 19th on a beautiful pass by Michael Nylander, who drew both defenders out of the middle of the ice on a power play.

The third period exposed Washington's recurring problems clearing the puck out of their own defensive zone. One such escapade led directly to Niclas Wallin clanking a shot off the inside of the post for the equalizer.

Carolina also received goals from Erik Cole, Eric Staal and Ray Whitney.

Overtime saw the Caps play their best defense of the night though, as they spent two minutes of the extra frame killing off a hooking penalty on defenseman Tom Poti, who was whistled for three minor infractions on the evening.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was happy for the win, but not particularly happy with his team's defensive effort. "If he [Theodore] wasn't at the top of his game they would have had six or seven easy. Easy. I mean, they had four breakaways in the second period again."

"Once it started getting to that firewagon hockey, we've got guys that like to go. And they didn't think too much about defense."

Thankfully for the Caps, they put enough up on the board tonight to keep their defense from ruining the fun for a lively Saturday night crowd. But the scoresheet tells the story: Semin and Green were on the ice for all eight goals scored in regulation, and Ovechkin and Backstrom seven of the eight.

Boudreau stressed to the media what he wants his best players to hear, "It was like pond hockey, and in the playoffs, you have to play much more structured," he said.

The Capitals now head out on a five-game road trip, starting in Florida Tuesday night.

09:53 Erik Cole (18), Slap Shot. Assist: Staal
10:59 Mike Green (24), Wrist Shot. Assist: Semin, Backstrom
18:01 Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (49), Wrist Shot. Assist: Green, Semin

01:30 Power Play - Alexander Semin (29), Wrist Shot. Assist: Laich, Ovechkin
05:57 Eric Staal (33), Wrist Shot. Assist: Whitney, Seidenberg
12:27 Power Play - Nicklas Backstrom (19), Wrist Shot. Assist: Nylander, Semin
19:52 Ray Whitney (23), Wrist Shot. Assist: Cole, Staal

10:47 Niclas Wallin (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Seidenberg, Cullen


1. A. Semin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 3)
2. E. Cole - CAR (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. N. Backstrom - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Sergei Fedorov (illness) and Donald Brashear (knee) were scratched. Green ended a seven game goal drought. Ovechkin pushed his scoring streak to 10 games (7 goals, 7 assists) and Semin extended his scoring streak to nine games (7 goals, 9 assists).