Mike Knuble, Alex Ovechkin

Capitals beat Sabres in OT to claim a small lead atop the Eastern Conference

Even with some key defensemen out with injuries, the Washington Capitals are clearly peaking at the right time. In fact, after some ups and downs during a transitional 2010-11 season, Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals now find themselves in first place in the Eastern Conference.

For at least one night, that is.

Ovechkin provided a jubilant victory dance after he shot the overtime game-winner through Buffalo Sabres backup goalie Jhonas Enroth, who might have to turn around and play again tomorrow in a big game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Washington 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

It looked like this game might be ugly, as the Capitals raced to an early 2-0 lead before the five minute mark. Yet the Sabres showed another sign of their consistent resilience this season, as Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford tied it up within five more minutes. That’s how the first period would end.

After a score-less middle frame, Paul Gaustad gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead and then the two teams’ power play units took over. Mike Knuble tied it up on a Washington PP, Stafford scored his second goal of the night on a Buffalo man advantage and then Jason Arnott sent it into overtime on the power play as well. Ovechkin then sent a shot that bounced off of two Buffalo players, then into the Sabres’ net to earn Washington what could be a key extra point. Both Knuble and Stafford produced two-goal games for their respective teams.

This gives Ovechkin “only” 30 goals on the season, as the flashy Russian’s numbers took a bit of a dive but his joy for the game never left. He’s been looking more and more like the Ovechkin of previous, all-world seasons lately, so it makes sense that the Capitals are back on their familiar perch atop the East.

We’ll give you the rundown of how this contest – and plenty of other Saturday games – will affect the Eastern Conference playoff picture in the next post.

Calder Cup standout Sedlak to make NHL debut for Jackets

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lukas Sedlak #85 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for the pass during the game against the Winnipeg Jets on September 20, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Jets 5-1.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Lukas Sedlak, the sixth-round pick that broke out during AHL Lake Erie’s Calder Cup championship run, will make his big-league debut tonight when Columbus hosts Chicago.

Sedlak, 23, spent three largely nondescript years with the Jackets’ minor-league club after turning pro in 2013, never scoring more than 18 points in a single season.

But in last year’s playoffs he caught fire, finishing second on the team in goals (nine) while tying playoff MVP Oliver Bjorkstrand in points (16).

And Sedlak did all that in just 17 games played.

“He filled the net in the playoffs and the last quarter of that year,” Columbus head coach John Tortorella said, per the Dispatch. “He deserves to be here. He’s had a good enough camp to be here.”

Tonight, Sedlak draws in for Sam Gagner as Columbus looks to avoid an 0-3 start to the year.

Avs expect to recall Mikko Rantanen from minors next week

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The Colorado Avalanche are planning to recall forward Mikko Rantanen from the AHL next week, according to the Denver Post.

The 19-year-old was the team’s first round pick, 10th overall, in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

He failed to record a point in nine games last season, but had a strong campaign in the minors, as he scored 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games. Those are incredible numbers for a teenager getting his first taste of AHL action.

It looked like Rantanen would make the Avs out of training camp, but an ankle injury changed that.

After Saturday’s game against Florida, the Avalanche will have six days between games, which is why they’ll leave their top prospect in the minors for another week.

Both head coach Jared Bednar and GM Joe Sakic have stated that the young forward will have a top-six role with the club when he arrives.


PHT Morning Skate: Erik Karlsson’s awesome Halloween costume may give you nightmares

Melinda Currey on Instagram

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–Which of these four players will be able to sustain their hot starts? (Sportsnet)

–Caps forward Daniel Winnik lost a piece of his ear after blocking a shot last night. (Fox Sports)

–Bobby Orr still wants to see the return of the red line. (ESPN)

–Five General Managers that are on the hot seat. (The Hockey News)

–Watch as workers put together the rink at Investors Group Field for the Heritage Classic:

–Warning: You can’t unsee Erik Karlsson‘s black swan Halloween costume (if you can’t see it, click here):

I just want to be perfect. ⚫️🐦🙆🏻

A photo posted by melindacurrey (@melindacurrey) on

Ovechkin scored the winner against the Panthers, as the Capitals continued to roll

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, celebrates his goal as center Marcus Johansson (90), from Sweden, comes to join him in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) The Washington Capitals are off to a fast start.

Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period Thursday night to lift the Capitals over the Florida Panthers 4-2.

Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead 3-2 with 12:27 left in the third. His one-timer from the point got past Roberto Luongo, who was screened on the play.

The Capitals have earned at least a point in each of their four games.

“At the start of the season, it’s almost always important to take points,” Ovechkin said. “We didn’t lose the game and it’s a good sign. We just have to continue to collect the points and move forward.”

Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams scored for the Capitals. Matt Niskanen recorded two assists and Braden Holtby made 26 saves.

“In the third, (we) responded really well and I thought in the third period they (Panthers) really didn’t have much,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “They had one or two chances, but not much. We had the majority of them.”

Jaromir Jagr became the third player to score 750 goals. He is in third place all-time in the NHL, behind only Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801). Michael Matheson also scored for the Panthers. Jagr’s goal was his first in 10 games, including one last season, six playoff games last season, and three this season.

“It’s always good to get the first one. A good play, a good pass, I was wide open in the slot,” Jagr said. “I had a lot of chances in the games before but I couldn’t put the puck in. I’m glad I did tonight.”

Luongo made 25 stops for the Panthers, who lost their second straight.

The Capitals surged in the third period with two goals on 13 shots. Johannson stretched the lead to 4-2 with an unassisted goal with 1:20 left.

“In the third we sat back a little bit or they pushed back a little bit.” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “They took the chances to us. That third goal was sort of lucky, a bouncing puck from the blue line and changed direction. Tough to lose like that.”

Jagr’s power-play goal tied the game at 2 with 5:50 left in the second. Jagr took a pass in the slot from Aleksander Barkov from behind the goal line and beat Holtby. The power-play goal was the first in 11 opportunities for the Panthers this season.

The Panthers had an apparent power-play goal at 7:47 of the second waved off. Colton Sceviour swept in a loose puck sitting to the left of the crease but an early whistle killed the play.

“He (referee) said he wasn’t in position and thought the puck was covered. He made a mistake,” Gallant said.

Trailing 2-0, the Panthers closed to 2-1 on Matheson’s shot from the sideboards that snuck past Holtby on the stick side with 6:13 left in the first. The goal was Matheson’s second in two games.

The Capitals scored two goals less than two minutes apart in the first period. Williams took a pass from Nate Schmidt in front and poked in the puck on his second try to make it 1-0 at 8:25. The goal was Williams 250th in the NHL.

Washington stretched its lead to 2-0 when Kuznetsov deflected a shot from the point under Luongo’s glove at 10:21.