WASHINGTON | Alex Ovechkin couldn't keep the puck on his stick and appeared uncharacteristically sluggish.
He had ruined an odd-man rush with an ill-timed interference minor and had made more trips to the penalty box than he had shots.
Then came overtime — and redemption.
Ovechkin scored with 31.1 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
"Only Alex can play like he did and score the overtime goal and be the hero. Go ask him how he played. He'll tell you: Not so good," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But he got the overtime goal and that's what superstars do. That's why he's out in the last minute, because he's got the ability to win you a game."
The Senators had limited Ovechkin to two shots before he skated down the right wing, got a half-stride on defenseman Chris Phillips and uncorked a wrist shot from the right circle that slipped past goalie Pascal Leclaire for his third goal of the season.
Ovechkin readily acknowledged it wasn't his most impressive effort. But he avoided being held without a point for the first time this season in dramatic fashion.
"Shoot the puck and puck goes in," Ovechkin said. "Pretty lucky."
In a heartbeat, any frustration the Capitals were feeling about allowing Ottawa to tie the game with 12:40 left in regulation was erased.
"I was kind of getting ready for a shootout," said Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth, who made 29 saves. "But then (Ovechkin) scored. I was maybe the happiest guy in the building. That was a huge goal for us and a huge win."
Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar said Ovechkin's ineffectiveness until the game-winner was the byproduct of improving play from a team that remained winless.
"(Ovechkin is) not what we're worrying about. ... The focus was to get the team going," Gonchar said.
Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr also scored for the Capitals, who have won two straight games.
Jarkko Ruutu and Ryan Shannon scored for Ottawa, which has dropped all three games this season.
"Tonight was more organized and we supported each other better," Shannon said. "We stayed together on the ice and didn't get spread out, so it seemed like we weren't as tired as the game went on. ... We hung with them."
Just after consecutive minor penalties against Ottawa expired, Semin put the Capitals up 1-0 18:38 into the game. Semin skated unchecked through the right circle, knocking home a feed from Brooks Laich.
Neuvirth made 18 saves and weathered four power plays before Ruutu tied it midway through the second period. Ruutu redirected Matt Carkner's drive from the left point.
The tie lasted until Fehr pounded Matt Hendricks' centering pass past Leclaire at 11:18.
Ottawa tied the game with 12:40 remaining in regulation. Peter Regin stole the puck from Washington's Nicklas Backstrom in front of the Capitals bench and fed Shannon, who scored on snap shot from between the circles.
Notes: Capitals RW Matt Bradley skated three first-period shifts before departing with an undisclosed lower-body injury. He is day-to-day. ... Washington D Tom Poti was a late scratch with an undisclosed lower-body injury and was replaced by D Tyler Sloan. ... Continuing a longtime Washington custom, ex-Capital Gonchar was serenaded with a derisive whooping chant each time he touched the puck. The practice dates to 1989 and was first directed at former Cap Larry Murphy, who had been traded to Minnesota. ... Seven-foot Washington Wizards forward Yi Jianlian of China donned a red Capitals jersey and sat alongside Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the NBA and NHL clubs.