Ovie scores in overtime

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Caps gain some ground for final playoff berth

These are the games that can turn a season around. Down a goal late in regulation, another blown opportunity loomed for the Capitals.

But for the second time in this roller-coaster homestand, they somehow found a way. Marcus Johansson scored the game-tying goal with 3 minutes, 58 seconds remaining and Alex Ovechkin netted the game-winner in overtime for a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center on Thursday night.

It was the second time in the five-game homestand that Ovechkin scored in overtime. Washington (33-28-6, 72 points) gained ground on most of its competitors in the race for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Pending Winnipeg's late game at Vancouver on Thursday night, they gave themselves a chance to leap into the No.?8 spot. Florida, the first-place team in the Southeast Division, Buffalo and, of course, Tampa Bay all lost on Thursday.

"After every win we talk about 'Is this the game like we maybe turn it up?'" said Ovechkin, whose team next plays Boston on Saturday afternoon. "Tomorrow's going to be different day. Tomorrow's going to be new game. Of course we going to take good things about this game. But we have to concentrate and not think 'OK, we win this game we going to be in.'?"

But even getting this one was dicey. Tampa Bay scored twice on the power play in the second period, and Washington managed just three shots on goal in an awful period that led to a chewing out from coach Dale Hunter at intermission. Twice a skate was the culprit -- the first goal tapped in off Lightning forward Ryan Malone in front of goalie Tomas Vokoun's crease, and the second an own goal when Caps defenseman John Carlson watched in horror as a shot clicked off his skate and in.

But in the third period and overtime, the Caps responded by outshooting the Lightning 16-3 in a dominating stretch of hockey. Time and again they fired quality shots at Tampa Bay rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski (29 saves), who held up well until the final minutes when his teammates let him down.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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