Ovechkin and Brouwer conjure late magic for Capitals

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After losing six of seven games and just generally looking like the polar opposite of the team that once captivated the NHL, the Washington Capitals are showing that they might still have some magic left after winning three in a row.

Tonight’s win was by far the most magical.

The New York Islanders have been a scrappier team than most probably realize, but the bottom line is that the Caps need to win games like these. Matt Moulson made it 2-0 a few minutes into the the third period, but Washington showed that it might not go away easily after all.

Troy Brouwer scored two late goals (including one with just 26 seconds left) to tie it up and then Alex Ovechkin scored a highlight reel overtime-winner to give the Caps the 3-2 OT win – and the East’s eighth spot in the process.

Updating the Southeast and lower East

The Florida Panthers dismantled the Toronto Maple Leafs, so Washington was unable to make up ground for the Southeast Division title. The Panthers maintained their three-point lead and hold a game in hand, so they’re in control at the moment.

If you’re weird like me and wonder if the Caps might actually benefit from full-fledged underdog status, then this situation is looking promising, though. Washington isn’t just in eighth place, they hold a one-point lead (and two games in hand) over division rivals Winnipeg and must feel great seeing the Maple Leafs sink into the remarkable logjam right outside the East’s playoffs:

8. Washington: 69 points (19 games remaining)

9. Winnipeg: 68 points (17 GR)
10. Toronto: 65 points (19 GR)
11. Tampa Bay: 64 points (19 GR)

12. Buffalo: 62 points (20 GR)
13. Carolina: 61 points (19 GR)
14. NY Islanders: 61 points (19 GR)

15. Montreal: 58 points (18 GR)

(Note: I broke the teams into groups based on my subjective views of their playoff chances. Feel free to disagree.)

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I don’t know about you, but the Capitals look like they have a great chance to lock up that final East playoff spot. For all their flaws and negative news clippings, they’d make an awfully interesting first round foil to the New York Rangers for two reasons:

1. The Capitals were the first seed and the Rangers were the eighth seed in the 2011 playoffs.

2. Ovechkin’s Capitals have booted Henrik Lundqvist’s team out of the playoffs in both meetings.

Yup, that sounds juicy to me – but obviously we’re a long way from that actually happening – especially if the Caps just go and win the Southeast.