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WASHINGTON – Trailing by a goal, the Washington Capitals spent their second intermission venting about their poor play. Marcus Johansson used the rest of the game to lead the comeback.
Johansson scored the tying goal late in the third period and got the winner midway through overtime to rally the Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
"We talked in there, pulled ourselves together and played a lot better," said Johansson, who has four goals in his last five games to raise his season total to 11. "It wasn't pretty, but we got the puck deep and we got it done, and that's all that matters."
Jay Beagle added the Capitals' first even-strength goal in three games as Washington snapped a three-game losing skid.
Braden Holtby made 31 saves in the victory, the Capitals' second over the Sabres in an 11-day stretch, with losses to Toronto, the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay sandwiched in between.
"We've been going down a little bit of the wrong path right now," said John Carlson, who assisted on Johansson's tying goal. "The world isn't ending, but we know it's not good enough for this group and our expectations of each other and ourselves."
Even with the victory, Capitals coach Barry Trotz still left the Verizon Center frustrated by captain Alex Ovechkin, who picked up his fifth minor penalty in three games.
"Unacceptable. He's their leader. He can't take those penalties," Trotz said. "I'm going to address it harshly with him tomorrow."
Kyle Okposo scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season to give the Sabres the lead in the second period, and Zemgus Girgensons also scored early for Buffalo.
Robin Lehner made 30 stops for the visitors, who were forced by injury to play two rookie defenders with a combined one game of previous NHL experience.
Still, the Sabres outshot the Capitals 16-7 in a second period that ended with Buffalo leading 2-1, before Washington turned the tables with a 16-9 edge and a goal in the third.
Buffalo was trying to win three out of four for the second time this season.
"I mean give them credit, they're a good team, but I think we're starting to sit back and they have speed, you know?" Lehner said. "I think we see that we can play. We've just got to stop changing, changing how we play."
Washington turned up its pressure as the third period went on and eventually induced Evander Kane into a hooking penalty with under 6 1/2 minutes remaining.
Johansson tied it just five seconds after the ensuing faceoff, redirecting Carlson's shot into traffic.
Washington killed a tripping penalty on Beagle before the third ended.
Then Johansson's winner came 2:38 into the extra period as he took a cross-ice pass from Dmitry Orlov and fired a one-time that beat Lehner over his left pad.
"I think they got a little bit tired," Johansson said of the goal. "I was actually a little bit tired too. But I think (Evgeny Kuznetsov) and (Orlov) both made great plays to set that up, and I just tried to get it on net. It was a good feeling to see it go in."
NOTES: Buffalo C Jack Eichel finished the game despite appearing to hurt his left leg in a second-period tangle with Capitals D Orlov. It was Eichel's fourth game back from a high ankle sprain in the same leg that forced him to miss two months. ... Beagle's goal was Washington's first at even strength since the third period of a 4-2 loss at Toronto on Nov. 26, a span of more than 2 hours and 28 minutes of game time. ... Sabres D Erik Burgdoerfer made his NHL debut after he was recalled from AHL Rochester to step in for D Josh Gorges (broken foot). ... The teams conclude their three-game season series in Buffalo on Friday
Sabres: Host Edmonton on Tuesday night in the opener of a four-game homestand.
Capitals: Host Boston on Wednesday night.