- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

NEW YORK | At about 8 p.m. Tuesday, Bruce Boudreau and his Washington Capitals were crashing toward a long holiday break.

A little less than two hours later, all was improbably well in a jubilant Caps locker room. Shaone Morrisonn’s first goal of the season came 59 seconds into overtime and capped a rally from four goals down for a 5-4 victory in front of a stunned crowd of 18,200 at Madison Square Garden.

Three days after getting drilled 7-1 by the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps again appeared en route to a lopsided defeat when the Rangers raced to a 3-0 lead after just five shots on net. Jose Theodore was given his first start since Dec. 7 against Carolina, but he was back on the bench 11:15 into the game. Boudreau called a timeout and yanked Theodore for Brent Johnson - even though Johnson was sick at the morning skate.

“I just said, ‘This is not going to happen again. We’re not going to die. We’re going to keep battling and succeed,’” Boudreau said. “It was, ‘Keep believing, keep believing.’ You say those things, and you never know they’re going to happen. People that follow us know we’ve got a penchant for either coming back or at least making it an exciting game.”

Johnson stopped both shots he faced, but he appeared to be laboring. When the Caps returned for the second period, Theodore was back between the pipes. Ryan Callahan netted his second goal of the contest early in the middle period thanks to a defensive breakdown, giving the Rangers a commanding 4-0 lead.

That’s when Theodore started to settle in, and the Caps came all the way back.

Alex Ovechkin, who was the man in charge of backchecking Callahan on the fourth goal, attempted 18 shots in the first 40 minutes - and his least conventional one actually went it. Ovechkin collected the puck along the wall to the right of goalie Henrik Lundqvist and flung it toward the net. It hit Michal Rozsival and knuckled over Lundqvist’s left shoulder 12:35 into the second period.

The Caps kept the pressure on Lundqvist for the rest of the period, and the momentum shifted. Tomas Fleischmann cut the lead to 4-2 early in the third when he redirected a Nicklas Backstrom slap shot on a power play. Viktor Kozlov made it 4-3 on another power-play tally at 7:54 after a crafty pass from Backstrom through a defenseman’s legs.

“We could see them starting to panic, and we just kept going,” Theodore said. “After we made it 4-2, 4-3, I knew we were going to get that fourth goal.”

Ovechkin completed the rally when he grabbed a clearing attempt by Chris Drury out of the air and beat Lundqvist with a shoulder shimmy and a forehand shot at 12:38.

“I think they just stopped playing hockey,” Ovechkin said. “They probably [think at] 4-0 they had won the game.”

Once it went to overtime, it didn’t take long for the Caps to strike. Michael Nylander carried the puck into the offensive zone, and after it deflected off a defenseman’s skate, Morrisonn teed up a booming slap shot. Seconds later, he was on the bottom of a pile of bodies.

“We started off struggling, but our guys have great character in here,” Morrisonn said. “We just kept battling and pushing. I saw the puck, and I just blasted it through him.”

Theodore has been struggling mightily in recent weeks; four goals in eight shots didn’t help matters. But he stopped the last 17 shots he faced, including a dynamite glove save on Drury when the score was 4-3.

“I didn’t feel like I wasn’t playing well; I didn’t feel like I wasn’t sharp,” Theodore said. “I had a couple of minutes to regroup, and after the coach told me I was going to go back in, I was really happy because I knew we had the energy to turn things around.”

Notes - Defensemen Mike Green and Tom Poti and forward Donald Brashear missed the game with injuries, joining Alexander Semin, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Clark, John Erskine and Jeff Schultz on the list of players missing. Tyler Sloan returned; Bryan Helmer and Andrew Gordon were recalled from Hershey to fill out the roster.

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