- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

It isn’t often that both teams come away satisfied with the result.

Buffalo captain Jason Pominville scored 1:51 into overtime to keep the Sabres‘ fleeting playoff hopes alive, but just by reaching the extra session the Washington Capitals clinched their second straight Southeast Division title in a 5-4 loss Friday night at sold-out Verizon Center.

Maxim Afinogenov leveled the score at 4-4 midway through the third period. After a scrambled situation in which multiple shot attempts didn’t make it to goaltender Simeon Varlamov but the Caps couldn’t clear the puck, it came to Tim Connolly near the inside of the left circle. He pushed it across the slot to Afinogenov, who snapped it into the net before Varlamov could get back into position at 10:21.

The Caps grabbed their first lead with two power-play goals 13 seconds apart in the second period after the Sabres were assessed four infractions in a span of 2:30. Alexander Semin flipped home the rebound of an Alex Ovechkin slap shot for a five-on-three tally at 3:37. It was Semin’s 30th of the season.

Sergei Fedorov made it 3-2 Washington before the fans had settled back into their seats. Tomas Fleischmann made a diving stop with his stick to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and Fedorov collected it before ripping a shot from the high slot past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. Fleischmann had not recorded a point since Feb. 28 at Boston.

Derek Roy knotted the score at 3-3 when he redirected a Connolly slap pass with the Sabres on the power play at 18:17 of the middle period, but Fedorov struck again 23 seconds later. Ovechkin had his attempt from inside the left circle thwarted, but Fedorov’s slap shot from along the left wall beat Miller with the help of a screen from Viktor Kozlov.

It was Fedorov’s second two-goal game of the year — he also potted a pair Oct. 25 at Dallas.

Ovechkin put Washington in front with his league-leading 55th goal of the season. Brooks Laich and Kozlov worked a give-and-go with the Caps on the power play, and then Laich fed Ovechkin with a beautiful cross-crease pass for a one-timer at 5:36 of the opening period.

It was Ovechkin’s 19th extra-man marker of the season, which ties him with Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek and Calgary’s Michael Cammalleri. It is also only the fifth time someone has reached 55 goals in the past 12 seasons — Ovechkin and Pavel Bure have done it twice, and Jonathan Cheechoo once.

The Sabres struck twice in the first period — with the help of some fortuitous bounces. Drew Stafford tipped in Jaroslav Spacek’s slap shot from the left point at 9:14, but it might not have gone in if not for hitting Milan Jurcina’s skate.

Clark MacArthur gave the Sabres the lead 48 seconds later when he backhanded the puck into the slot — and it went off Kozlov’s stick and past Varlamov.

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