Washington Capitals\' Mike Knuble, right, scores a goal against Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason (1) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 31, 2011, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals are closing in on the Philadelphia Flyers for the Eastern Conference lead.
Jason Chimera's tip-in goal with 2:30 remaining in overtime gave Washington a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, pushing the Capitals across the 100-point mark for the third consecutive season.
The Capitals have 101 points, putting them a step closer to their fourth straight Southeast Division title and just one point behind Philadelphia, a 1-0 loser to Atlanta.
"It was a little bit of a funny night for us," Capitals winger Mike Knuble said. "I want us to be better—I know we can be better."
In the extra period, the Capitals capitalized on a 3-on-2 rush, which resulted in a shot from Brooks Laich that goalie Steve Mason could not handle. The rebound went right to Chimera, who tapped the puck in to beat his former team and give Washington its 12th win in March.
"It went to the net soft, it kind of went off their defenceman and it ended up right on my tape, so it's hard to miss those ones," Chimera said. "But those are nice—especially nice against your old team. It was a good night."
Mason, who stopped 29 shots but gave up a number of rebounds, said the Capitals were the better team.
"I thought they deserved to win," he said. "They're one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference."
Michal Neuvirth stopped 20 shots to pick up his 25th victory of the season.
"The goals that went in were hard to stop," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "More importantly, when the game's on the line, he's there. He had to make some really good saves at the end to preserve the win."
Scottie Upshall forced overtime for Columbus, fighting off two Washington defenders to score his 22nd goal of the season with 5:37 remaining in the third period to make it 3-3.
"We battled hard—we came back from behind three times," Blue Jackets centre Antoine Vermette said. "We didn't give up. That's what I like about that game tonight."
The teams scored four goals in a 2:17 span in the second period, turning a defensive-minded game into a freewheeling affair.
Columbus' Antoine Vermette tied it at one with 8:50 remaining after Matt Calvert came up with a loose puck and kicked it toward his teammate, who beat goalie Michal Neuvirth. The Capitals answered quickly when Mike Knuble retrieved Nicklas Backstrom's shot and tapped the puck into a wide-open net with 7:28 left.
Just 42 seconds later, the Blue Jackets' Fedor Tyutin fired a shot from just inside the blue line past Neuvirth to tie it. But again, Washington responded, when Jason Arnott scored 13 seconds later off a pinpoint pass from Marco Sturm.
Washington got off to a quick start, with defenceman John Carlson scoring 1:39 into the contest. Mason flubbed a glove save of a Laich shot, and Carlson deposited the rebound for his seventh goal of the season. The Capitals outshot Columbus 15-4 in the first period and 33-23 overall.
"Sometimes when we get a lead so early we kind of settle in instead of pushing the pace and that was a classic example of what we did tonight," Carlson said. "It's good we found a way to win. It was a good character win to pull it back after we had so many leads throughout the game."
NOTES: Washington finished its 18-game schedule against the Western Conference with a 8-9-1 record. ... Carlson appeared in his 100th career game. ... Arnott's goal was the 399th of his career. ... Columbus winger Rick Nash and Washington defenceman Dennis Wideman missed the game. Nash has an undisclosed injury that will be re-evaluated Friday. Wideman is week-to-week with a lower-body injury suffered in the Capitals' loss Tuesday against Carolina. ... Columbus hasn't scored a power-play goal since March 9, an 11-game span in which it is 0-for-35. ... Tomas Kubalik had two assists for the Blue Jackets in his NHL debut.