- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Washington Capitals have found many ways to secure comeback victories in the past 21/2 months, but last night’s might have topped them all.

Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winner but not before the Caps first erased a two-goal deficit and then overcame one of the strangest blunders in recent NHL history for an 4-3 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

“Crazy game,” Ovechkin said. “That was sick.”

The win, coupled with losses by Atlanta and Carolina, moved Washington back to within one point of first place in the Southeast Division — and the Caps could take the lead tonight in Philadelphia.

It also meant the Caps still have not suffered back-to-back losses in regulation in the Bruce Boudreau Era.

The Blue Jackets took a 3-2 lead early in the third period on maybe the most unusual play of the season. Referee Bill McCreary, who has been officiating NHL games for 23 seasons, collided with Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn just inside his team’s blue line.

Rick Nash collected the puck and skated in alone on net to score his second breakaway tally of the night.

“It was a great hip check by Billy there,” said Morrisonn, who had slammed his stick to the ice after the goal. “I don’t know what he was doing in the middle, but everybody makes mistakes. Thank God we got the win, or I probably would have fought him.”

Defenseman Tom Poti needed 45 games to register his first goal with the Caps, but it came at a critical time. With the disappointment of losing the game because of the McCreary incident drawing near, Poti tucked a wrist shot under the crossbar to knot the score at 3-3.

Poti and forward Donald Brashear both put their arms up in celebration, but the goal was initially waved off and play continued. After the next whistle, the shot was reviewed, and the call was reversed with 6:53 remaining in regulation to set the stage for Ovechkin’s heroics.

“That’s the way it’s going for me offensively,” Poti said of the initial call. “I’ve had so many chances this year and hit four or five posts. I’ve had trouble scoring, but I feel like I am playing really well defensively.”

Columbus had the better of the play early in the extra session, but Ovechkin took a pass from Poti and used a screen from Alexander Semin to put a shot through Norrena for his league-leading 45th goal and 72nd point of the season.

Semin do great job — actually it was his goal,” Ovechkin said. “Poti give me pass, and I just try to see what happens, and [Semin] give me space.”

After the Caps fell behind 2-0 in the first 20 minutes, Ovechkin and Semin struck less than five minutes apart to even the ledger. Ovechkin netted his first of the night at 13:34 in the second period with a wrist shot from near the top of the left faceoff circle.

Less than two minutes later, Caps forward Quintin Laing got tangled up with defenseman Jan Hejda and barreled into Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclaire. Laing was sent to the penalty box for interference, but Leclaire went to the dressing room with a sprained neck.

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