- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

MONTREAL — The stars played like stars for the short-handed Washington Capitals yesterday, but a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory against the Montreal Canadiens would not have been possible without key contributions from “the other guys.”

Boyd Gordon had a late second period goal, John Erskine made a deft play to set up the fourth tally and Tomas Fleischmann weaved his way through Montreal defenders and into the offensive zone, igniting the final rush that led to Mike Green’s game-winner 1:27 into the extra session in front of a sold-out matinee crowd at Bell Centre.

“You need 20 players to win a game,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Whether they are playing great defensively or shutting down the other team’s top line or whether they are giving other guys a rest, you need them to do the job.”

Alex Ovechkin was brilliant, scoring two goals and narrowly missing on two others. Michael Nylander set up a pair of goals, including Green’s winner. Green atoned for an earlier mistake, notching his 11th goal, which is tops among NHL defensemen, and adding a pair of assists. Nicklas Backstrom had a pretty goal, snapping a wrist shot into the top right-hand corner on a 3-on-2.

It all added up to another wild contest north of the border. Washington is 4-0 in Canada this season and has scored 24 goals in those games. After stumbling into the holiday break with losses in three straight, the Caps went 4-1-1 in a stretch that included two games against the best team in the conference and four road contests against teams currently among the top six in the East.

Even more impressively the Caps continue to play well without two of their top four defensemen (Tom Poti and Brian Pothier) and two of their top six forwards (Alexander Semin and captain Chris Clark).

“You guys asked me last week about the injury bug, and I said guys needed to step up,” goaltender Olie Kolzig said. “Guys did that [against Montreal].”

Yesterday afternoon did not start well for the Caps. Tomas Plekanec one-timed a slap-pass from Alex Kovalev 2:38 into the goal to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead.

Boudreau said a pep talk from forward Donald Brashear during the first intermission helped the team settle.

“One of our leaders came in after the first period and gave the group [heck],” Boudreau said. “We had a game plan, and some of us were on it and some weren’t.”

Andrei Kostitsyn put the puck between Green’s legs on an inside-out move before making it 2-0 in the second period, but then the Caps seized the momentum.

Ovechkin blistered a one-timer off a faceoff win from Nylander to cut the lead in half 1:24 after Kostitsyn’s goal. Backstrom led a 3-on-2 rush, and when the defenders left him with space anticipating a pass, he ripped a wrister over Montreal goaltender Carey Price’s left shoulder.

Then Gordon used defenseman Roman Hamrlik as a screen and put a slap shot from the top of the right circle past Price with 1:09 remaining in the second period for his fourth goal of the season.

Hamrlik tied it with a goal 2:05 into the third. Ovechkin was hit with a tripping penalty a little more than two minutes later, but just before he was to come out of the box Erskine corralled the puck near the Caps’ bench. He waited for Ovechkin to leave the box and hit him with a cross-ice pass to spring him toward his 32nd goal of the season.

Kovalev knotted the score 4-4 with a wrist shot midway through the final period to set up overtime.

Then Fleischmann stickhandled his way into the zone and left a drop pass for Nylander, who deked past Kostitsyn and sent the puck to his right to an oncoming Green.

He didn’t get all of it, but it was enough to beat a diving Price and set off a wild celebration after Ovechkin hopped off the bench and tackled Green near center ice.

“I was just thinking, ‘Get it off quick,’ ” Green said. “Price is so good positionally. If you give him a sec he’s going to be over there to make the stop. … I don’t know if hit the back of the net, but it went over the line.”

Caps report

Yesterday afternoon at Bell Centre in Montreal

SEEN AND HEARD

The afternoon crowd of more than 21,000 produced the loudest atmosphere of the season for a Caps game. One patron in particular stood out, both on the RDS broadcast and in a group of people waiting for the Canadiens players after the game. Elisha Cuthbert, best known as Kim Bauer on “24,” was in attendance. Cuthbert, a Calgary native raised in Montreal, is a big hockey fan and used to have a blog on nhl.com. She used to date Sean Avery, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings and now with the New York Rangers, but recently she has been linked to Montreal”s Mike Komisarek.

OVECHKIN WATCH

With two goals against Montreal, Alex Ovechkin now has scored in every Eastern Conference city. The only building in the conference he has not scored in is Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., which opened this season. Ovechkin has now scored in 21 buildings in his three-year career. He also leads the NHL with 13 power-play goals this season.

Corey Masisak

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