The Washington Capitals spilled off the bench and to the precise spot on the ice where Marcus Johansson had finally ended their recent miserable stretch. It was one big group hug, a fitting celebration after they had gone too long without a win.
With his goal in overtime, Johansson lifted the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, ending the team's three-game losing streak. It marked Johansson's second goal of the game, made possible by Evgeny Kuznetsov's partially blocking the goalie's vision by being in front of the net.
With the Capitals trailing by a goal after 40 minutes, coach Barry Trotz said he "had a few words" in the locker room at second intermission. Whatever he said worked, because in the third period and in overtime Washington got back to a proven scoring formula: traffic in front of the net to generate scoring chances.
"It's a big win for us," Trotz said. "We needed to get mad and play the right way."
Trailing Buffalo 2-1, the Capitals made a push to start the third period, launching 12 shots on goal in the first 15 minutes. Their work in the offensive zone paid off when Buffalo's Evander Kane was called for hooking, sending Washington to the power play for just the third time in the game.
Just five seconds in, a man-advantage that has occasionally struggled to produce this season because of missed shots benefited from an accurate one and some net presence. Defenseman John Carlson shot a rocket from the point and Johansson, posted in front of Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner, tipped the puck in with his stick. That tied the game with 6:18 left, setting up the overtime that guaranteed the Capitals would get at least a point out of it.
"That's what we need from the power play," Johansson said. "I think the last few years, that's what we've gotten, too. We have a good power play, and we've gotten results from it. It just hasn't really bounced our way, and I think we've been making it a little too hard, not really taking what's there. I mean, the last two goals, it's just getting the puck to the net, and they both go in."
Before Johansson's power-play goal, the game seemed to turn in a 79-second span in the second period. With the teams tied at 1, the Capitals struggled to seize momentum in one sequence 14 minutes into the period. Goaltender Braden Holtby stopped four Sabres shots on goal within 18 seconds, at one point finding himself at the bottom of a massive pileup at the net. A loose puck had stopped at the goal line, and a sprawled Holtby had managed to keep it out.
On the next shift, Johan Larsson seemed to score a goal for the Sabres. The Capitals challenged that the play was offside and won, getting the goal wiped off the scoreboard. That marked back-to-back breaks for Washington, but the team didn't take advantage. Less than a minute after the goal was disallowed, Matt Niskanen had a turnover that kept a Sabres shift alive.
Holtby saved a shot by Ryan O'Reilly, and then defenseman Karl Alzner blocked a shot by Kyle Okposo. But Okposo scored on his own rebound, lifting Buffalo to a 2-1 lead entering the third period.
"We catch a break and then they bury on us," Capitals center Jay Beagle said. "It was frustrating, obviously, when you're not playing the right way. Things are — I think they just don't go your way when you're not playing the right way."
That sparked Washington's third period, when a team that has looked disjointed for the past two weeks seemed to click again. The Capitals entered Monday night's game with some concerning offensive trends. Washington had scored just one goal in its past two games, and the team hadn't scored a five-on-five goal in more than a week.
With the Sabres missing three regular defensemen on Monday night, they seemed to be the perfect opponent for the Capitals to break out of their scoring slump. But instead, Washington found itself down a goal after the first period for the fourth straight game.
Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons received a quick pass from Derek Grant, taking advantage of a defensive breakdown by Washington, and then Girgensons sped down the left side of the ice on a two-on-one. Getting around Niskanen, Girgensons cut to the net and then backhanded the puck over Holtby 5:59 into the game.
Washington had its chances at the end of the first period, as Buffalo was called for back-to-back minor penalties in the last 5:20 of the frame. The Capitals had plenty of zone time on those power plays, but they managed just three shots on goal in four minutes of five-on-four, coming up empty-handed against the 29th-ranked penalty kill in the league.
But the power play came through in the third period, boosting Washington to a much-needed win.
"It should be big for us, just the type of game it was with the pressures of possibly being on a four-game slide," Holtby said. "In a game where it's sometimes not going our way, we're battling through it. It's grinding it out; it's not pretty or anything like that. We fought our way to find a victory, and that's what good teams do and that's what we need to do more of."
NBA: John Wall scored 25 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and the Washington Wizards beat the Brooklyn Nets, 118-113, on Monday night in New York.
Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. had 18 points apiece and Markieff Morris added 16 for Washington.
Brook Lopez scored 25 and Sean Kilpatrick had 21 for Brooklyn.
Beal's 3-pointer gave the Wizards a 107-106 lead with 3:27 left and Wall scored five consecutive points to up the advantage to 112-106.
The Nets pulled within 116-113 on Kilpatrick's layup with 39 seconds left and had a chance to tie after Kelly Oubre Jr. missed a 3-point attempt with 19 seconds left. However, Brooklyn did not call a timeout and Beal stole the ball from Joe Harris, the Nets' 22nd and final turnover of the game.
Wall hit two clinching free throws with five seconds left.
The Wizards trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half and 66-51 at halftime.
However, Washington scored the first 13 points of the second half to pull within two points and went on to lead 83-81 after three quarters.
Marcus Thornton scored 11 points, while Marcin Gortat and Oubre each had 10 for the Wizards. Gortat also had 12 rebounds.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 18 points and Trevor Booker had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Nets.
TE diagnosed with leukemia days after being cut by Ravens
On Nov. 7, the Ravens signed tight end Mitchell Henry to their practice squad. Three days later, he was cut to make room for quarterback David Fales. He nonetheless expected to rejoin the organization the following week. With the weekend off, Henry went home to Kentucky. Extreme pain in his shoulder developed. He underwent an MRI. "If not for the (seemingly terrible idea at the time) release by the Ravens ... it possibly could have taken weeks longer to determine a diagnosis," his brother, Ben Henry, wrote. The diagnosis was acute myeloid leukemia. Doctors had found a growth in his chest. According to ESPN, Henry is undergoing chemotherapy while a match is being sought for a bone marrow transplant. Ben Henry's fundraising effort already has surpassed his $15,000 goal, which he said will be used to defray expenses for Henry and his wife, help his family travel to see Henry, and raise awareness for BeTheMatch, which helps to manage the national bone marrow registry list. A standout at Western Kentucky, Henry signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent last season. He was released at the end of training camp, then was claimed off waivers by the Denver Broncos in September 2015. He later returned to the Packers as a practice squad member, but after breaking a finger for the second time in as many training camps with the team he was released. Henry underwent physicals with the Ravens and three other teams that worked him out this season, according to ESPN. None found the mass in his chest.
— Jonas Shaffer
More NFL: Just days after activating him to the 53-man roster, the Washington Redskins announced they have waived cornerback Dashaun Phillips. Phillips, a second-year pro, spent the past month on Washington's practice squad. He opened this season on the 53-man roster and served as the team's top nickel back before an injury in Week 3 opened the door for rookie and Baltimore native Kendall Fuller, a third-round draft pick who has been the nickel back ever since.
Baseball: The Houston Astros claimed former Orioles reliever Ashur Tolliver off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. Tolliver, 28, has only 4 2/3 innings of major league experience. The former fifth-round draft pick debuted in May with the Orioles against the Astros. The Angels claimed him off waivers from the Orioles on Sept. 3, but he did not pitch for them in the majors.
Lacrosse: US Lacrosse and U.S. men's senior team coach John Danowski announced the U.S. men's national team roster for its exhibition against Notre Dame at the annual Team USA Spring Premiere in Bradenton, Fla. The game is set for 1 p.m. Jan. 15 at IMG Academy. Players with local ties on the roster include Charlotte Hounds attacker Ryan Brown (Johns Hopkins), Chesapeake Bayhawks attackman Matt Danowski, Hounds midfielder Mike Chanenchuk (Maryland), Ohio Machine midfielder Kyle Harrison (Johns Hopkins), Hounds midfielder John Haus (Maryland), New York Lizards midfielder Paul Rabil (Johns Hopkins), Denver Outlaws midfielder Drew Snider (Maryland), Lizards midfielder Joe Walters (Maryland), Machine midfielder Jake Bernhardt (Maryland), Boston Cannons midfielder Josh Hawkins (Loyola Maryland), Outlaws midfielder Matt Bocklet (Johns Hopkins), Bayhawks defenseman Jesse Bernhardt (Maryland), Florida Launch defenseman Tucker Durkin (Johns Hopkins), Hounds defenseman Mike Ehrhardt (Maryland), Lizards defenseman Joe Fletcher (Loyola Maryland), Lizards defenseman Kyle Hartzell (Salisbury), and Outlaws defenseman Michael Simon (Stevenson). … Team registrations are being accepted for the Baltimore Indoor Lax Shoot-Out on February 19-20 at Du Burns Arena in Canton. The Shoot-Out is open to boys and girls school, travel and club-sponsored teams located within the Mid-Atlantic region. For more information, email email@example.com or go to mascomsports.com.
Men's college basketball: Ryan Andino scored 20 points and Logan McIntosh added 16 to lead host UMES to an 87-74 win over Division II Central Penn. … Loyola Maryland sophomore guard Andre Walker was named Patriot League Player of the Week. … Mount St. Mary's sophomore guard Elijah Long received Northeast Conference Player of the Week honorable mention. … Salisbury senior guard Wyatt Smith (John Carroll) was named Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Week.
Women's college basketball: Stevenson senior forward Sara Tarbert was named the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth Player of the Week for the third straight week. … Mount St. Mary's sophomore guard Mikal Johnson was selected as NEC Player of the Week. … Bowie State freshman forward Kyaja Williams (Western) was picked as the Rookie of the Week and Shadae Swan as Coach of the Week by the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. … Salisbury senior guard Lauren Rothfeld was named CAC Player of the Week.
Men's college track and field: Stevenson senior Devonte Williams was named MAC indoor track Track Athlete of the Week. … Johns Hopkins senior Andrew Bartnett was named Centennial Conference Athlete of the Week.
Women's college track and field: Johns Hopkins sophomore Felicia Koerner and junior Jenn Su have each been picked as Centennial Athlete of the Week.
Women's college ice hockey: Stevenson sophomore forward Maddy Ricci was selected as the Colonial Hockey Conference Player of the Week.
Sun staff and news services contributed to this article.