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Ovechkin had a chance to ice it with an empty net with about 30 seconds left but hit the post. Oates said that Ovechkin made this one a “little closer than anticipated.”

But Ovechkin had done enough during the rest of the game to make the empty-net miss more of a laughable afterthought than anything else. The captain recalled the time fellow former No. 1 pick Patrik Stefan missed an empty net for Dallas in 2007 and Edmonton tied the score seconds later.

There was no need for despair this time, though. The clock ticked down to zeroes and the Caps finally had a victory.

Right wing Joel Ward, who scored his team-best third goal of the season and added an assist on John Erskine’s first goal since May 4, 2011, said he was tired of hearing that the Caps were the last team without a win. But Chimera liked the jump at Saturday’s practice, and it was clear the mood around the team had changed even since the overtime loss at the Devils.

“Hopefully, the New Jersey game gave us confidence that when you do it right, we look like a real team,” Oates said.

And when Ovechkin looks like a real superstar, the Caps showed Sunday afternoon that they can follow his lead.

“When Ovi’s leading us like that, it’s tough not to follow,” Chimera said. “When he turns his wheels like that, and he’s the captain of our team. We can’t help but follow him. When he plays like that, it just goes right through the team.”