Caps 3, Senators 1

They needed that one. On a 1-2-2 skid the Caps had a home game against a team that will need a miracle to even make the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s not one you can afford to drop. And while there were plenty of shaky moments – and another early deficit – to overcome, Washington found a way with three third-period goals. Read all the details in our game story here.

Brooks Laich, John Carlson and Jason Chimera scored during a 6:16 stretch in the third period to lift the Caps. Mike Fisher scored for Ottawa, which has now lost eight of nine and is no doubt playing this song over and over on the plane ride home tonight.

Michal Neuvirth finished with 22 saves on 23 shots. It was his third win over the Senators this season – a big reason why Bruce Boudreau chose to go with him this afternoon. Neuvirth has allowed five goals on 80 shots against Ottawa. It was also a big win for his own confidence. Neuvirth hadn’t won since Dec. 21 against New Jersey – though, to be fair, he’d started just twice since then because of an injury and the stellar play of Semyon Varlamov.  

After Fisher’s goal just 72 seconds into the game, Washington found itself trailing at the end of the first period for the ninth time in 21 games. The Caps have had a lead after one just six times during that stretch dating back to Dec. 1. So this wasn’t exactly the start it was looking for. Then again – they’ve won a league-best 13 games after giving up the first goal.

No points for Alex Ovechkin on the night. He did have three shots and another four blocked with two missing the net. But you don’t have to score to contribute. His hit on Erik Karlsson started the game-tying goal by Brooks Laich at 7:15 of the third period – a play that opened the floodgates.

“The forecheck. That’s what it was,” Boudreau said. “Ovi goes in and takes the guy and all of the sudden [Ottawa defenseman Chris] Phillips is trying to hit [Daniel] Alfredsson in the middle of the ice and he rushes the puck a little bit, bounces over his stick and Brooks is in perfect position. That’s why he got the goal.”

Boudreau was all over the place with his line changes. I’ll have to rewatch the game to see exactly what he did. But let’s just say a night where rookie center Marcus Johansson begins on the right wing with Ovechkin and Backstrom’s line is going to have some juggling. Johansson acquitted himself well. By the end of the afternoon he was centering Ovechkin and Mike Knuble, one of a self-described “27” different combinations Boudreau threw together. Might have only been half-joking. Johansson set a season-high with 22:16 of ice time. His previous high was just 17:30 and that came on Friday against the Canucks. It pays to play with the big boys, apparently.

“Before the game I’m thinking he and [Backstrom], great combination, outside speed,” Boudreau said. “But when Marcus gets the puck more and uses his speed through the neutral zone he’s so much better. So I thought it was a good time to change.”

Caps Notes

» Washington has allowed just 28 goals in its last 14 games.

» Carlson’s goal was the first power-play tally of his career.

» Defenseman Karl Alzner said he was fine after getting cross-checked into the boards in the third period. Went left-shoulder first and called it “a hockey players’ worst nightmare.” But also said he just couldn’t catch his breath and was more stunned than anything.

» Caps tied their season-best for faceoff wins after taking 69% against Ottawa on Sunday. Also did that on Dec. 28 vs. Montreal. 

Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14