Sabres Vs. Capitals: Alex Ovechkin's Game-Winner Gives Washington Wild 5-4 Win

Jason Arnott scored inside of a minute to tie the score, and Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winner in overtime to give the Capitals a 5-4 overtime win.

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Sabres Vs. Capitals: Alex Ovechkin's Goal Caps Wild 5-4 Overtime Victory Over Sabres, First Place In East

If the playoffs started Saturday, the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres would meet in the first round. Based on Saturday's potential preview, the series would not disappoint.

Alex Ovechkin's shot deflected off of a Buffalo defender and into the net to give the Capitals a 5-4 win over the Sabres and first place in the Eastern Conference.

"It's always nice when you score the overtime goal," Ovechkin said. "I had a pretty good chance to today to score [a] goal, but I missed the net and the goalie played well, but it's nice to score."

A fast-paced first period that saw the Capitals blow a 2-0 lead gave way to a dull second period that saw 19 combined shots, but no goals. The third period, however, was much more exciting.

Paul Gaustad gave the Sabres their first lead at 12:35 of the third period when the Sabres took advantage of a Marcus Johansson turnover and Gaustad deked Michal Neuvirth (34 saves) and slipped the puck through his legs. Washington would respond on the power play less than two minutes later when Mike Knuble (two goals) deflected Brooks Laich's slapshot from the point through Jhonas Enroth's legs.

Not to be outdone, the Sabres would score a power play goal of their own at 16:39. Drew Stafford drove to the net and shot on Neuvirth. Neuvirth made the initial save, but a charging John Carlson kicked the puck into his own net to give the Sabres a 4-3 lead.

With time running out, Gaustad committed a penalty and the Caps pulled Neuvirth, setting up a 6-on-4. With pressure mounting, Enroth couldn't handle a rebound and Jason Arnott backhanded his 400th career goal into the net to tie the game. And in overtime, Ovechkin would bank the puck off of a Sabres defender to win the game and give the Caps sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.

"Games like this happen," Bruce Boudreau said. "The best defensive teams in the league, every now and then, will have a game where they stop doing it right. Three of the goals we put in our own net. {But} I thought we did a real good job of coming back."

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Sabres Vs. Capitals: Neither Team Gives As Score Remains 2-2 After Second Period

An exciting first period gave way to a dull second period as the Capitals and Sabres are still tied at 2-2.

Washington and Buffalo combined for 19 shots, but could not score.

Both teams have yet to go on the power play as no penalties have been called. Oddly enough, referee Bill McCreary is officiating his final NHL game.

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Sabres Vs. Capitals: Caps Blow Two-Goal Lead, Tied 2-2 With Sabres After First Period

The Washington Capitals found themselves with an early lead, but as quickly as they got it, they lost.

The Buffalo Sabres responded to a 2-0 deficit with two quick goals of their own to tie the game at 2-2 after the first period.

Knuble put the Caps up 1-0 just 37 seconds in. A strong defensive effort by the Caps forced a Buffalo turnover. Alex Ovechkin sent an outlet pass to John Carlson to spring a 2-on-1 rush. Carlson held the puck and fired it on Jhonas Enroth, who stopped the shot, but the puck flew into the air. Knuble was there to put the rebound past a sprawling Enroth for his 22nd goal of the season.

Alexander Semin joined in the scoring at 4:41 in an interesting sequence. Enroth stopped Marco Sturm's shot from the corner, but the rebound landed in the slot. Semin took a whack at it before sending it to Backstrom, who took a shot of his own. The puck hit the post, but Semin was able to get just enough of it on his stick to poke it past Enroth.

Yet, Buffalo did not go down quietly when Jason Pominville redirected a Chris Butler slap shot past Michal Neuvirth at 6:30 to cut Washington's lead to 2-1. Just three minutes later, Drew Stafford got a piece of Brad Boyes' shot and snuck it past Neuvirth to tie the game at 2-2.

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Sabres Vs. Capitals: Starting Lineup

Below is tonight's starting lineup for the Washington Capitals as they prepare to face off against the Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center. Head coach Bruce Boudreau, who has a tendency to switch lines on a regular basis, has done so again.

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Mike Knuble

Brooks Laich- Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin

Marco Sturm - Jason Arnott - Eric Fehr

Jason Chimera - Boyd Gordon - Matt Bradley

On defense, the pairings are:

Jeff Schultz - Scott Hannan

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Sean Collins - Tyler Sloan

Michael Neuvirth is in goal for the Capitals and will be opposed by the Sabres' Jhonas Enroth. The Capitals recalled Collins from AHL Hershey Saturday to replace John Erskine, who is not playing after he suffered an undisclosed injury during Thursday's 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The defensive corps is already without Mike Green, Tom Poti and Dennis Wideman.

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Sabres Vs. Capitals: Caps Can Claim First Place, Clinch Southeast Division With Victory Over Sabres

The Washington Capitals, through all of their ups and downs this season, find themselves near a familiar spot in the NHL standings: near the top. With a win over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday and some help, they could be on top.

In a potential playoff preview, the Caps will battle the Sabres with major standings implications at stake.

With a win, Washington will supplant the Philadelphia Flyers as the best team in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, if the Caps win and the Tampa Bay Lightning lose in regulation to the Minnesota Wild, they will clinch their fourth consecutive Southeast Division crown and will guarantee themselves one of the top three seeds in the playoffs.

If the playoffs started Saturday, the Caps and Sabres would meet in the quarterfinals. Washington has won two of three against Buffalo this season. The Caps will be shorthanded Saturday as John Erskine will not play after suffering an undisclosed injury Thursday in a 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Recent call-up Sean Collins will take Erskine's place on an already-depleted defensive corps that is without Mike Green, Tom Poti and Dennis Wideman.

The Sabres haven't escaped injury, either. Goaltender Ryan Miller is out with an upper body injury and did not make the trip to Washington. In his place, Jhonas Enroth will start. Buffalo is also without Jordan Leopold, Derek Roy, Patrick Kaleta, Mike Grier and Jochen Hecht.

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