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Mid-Day Memories: Sudden Victory

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Where we look at games that end in the first minute of overtime.

Philadelphia Flyers v Washington Capitals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Overtime. It means different things in different sports. Whether it is baseball, football, basketball, or soccer, the overtime rules are different, and the manner in which a team plays out overtime and wins differs among them. What all of them lack, in varying degrees, is the “sudden” aspect of “sudden death” that accompanies overtime in hockey. Baseball has its “walk-off” moments, but it also has a team taking a lead in extra innings forced to shut down an opponent in its last at-bat. Basketball does not have a “sudden” game-ending moment, playing to the expiration of the clock in an overtime period. Football has its game-ending moment, but it often approaches with the suddenness of a lava flow as a team marches down the field for a winning touchdown or field goal. Soccer has its “extra time,” but it is not ended in a “sudden death” moment.

Hockey is different. The speed, unpredictability, and randomness of the game make it rare that one can see an end coming before the puck settles into the back of a net (we will leave shootouts for another time). It is sudden, final, certain, except for the uncommon instances of replays to confirm a result. It strikes like a thunderclap when fans have barely settled back into their seats, and the game ends within the first minute of the extra session.

And that brings us to the Washington Capitals. Overtime in the NHL has been a feature of game since the 1983-1984 season. Since then, it has featured prominently in the history of the Caps, particularly with respect to games decided in the first minute of overtime. For instance:

  • Since 1983-1984, the Caps settled 454 games in the overtime session of regular season games: 149 wins, 120 losses, and 185 ties.
  • Of the 269 games played to a win or loss in overtime, 49 of them were settled in the first 60 seconds of the extra session.
  • Of the 49 games settled in the first 60 seconds of overtime, the Caps have an all-time record of 33-16 – 13-8 at home, 20-8 on the road.
  • The fastest goal scored in overtime in a Caps game was scored six seconds into the extra session against the Atlanta Thrashers on December 15, 2006. Alex Ovechkin, who tied the game with 30.4 seconds left in regulation, won the contest six seconds into overtime, completing the hat trick and scoring all of the Caps’ goals in a 3-2 win.
  • The 33 game-winning goals scored by the Caps in the first minute of overtime are shared among 23 players. Three players have three such goals apiece:

- Fans might not be surprised that defenseman Mike Green is one of them. He scored a power play goal 23 seconds into overtime in a 3-2 win in New York over the Rangers on February 10, 2008; notched his second such goal 29 seconds into overtime in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on November 7, 2010; and he recorded his third first-minute overtime goal at the one-minute mark of overtime in a 5-4- win in Buffalo over the Sabres on January 28, 2014.

- Peter Bondra turned the trick three times. The first two came eight days apart, the first 21 seconds into overtime of a 3-2 win in Los Angeles over the Kings on October 16, 2001; and again 45 seconds into the extra session of a 4-3 win in Florida over the Panthers on October 24, 2001. His third first-minute overtime goal came 21 seconds into the extra frame in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on March 10, 2003.

- The surprise here is that Brooks Laich is the third Capitals with three game-winners in the first minute of overtime. He scored one minute into the extra period in a 3-2 win on Long Island against the Islanders on October 24, 2009; repeated the feat in Boston, 44 seconds into a 3-2 win over the Bruins on April 5, 2010; and he recorded his third goal in this category 12 seconds into overtime in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on December 3, 2011.

  • The other Capitals with first-minute overtime goals in regular season games include:

- Alex Ovechkin (2)

- Alexander Semin (2)

- Eric Fehr (2)

- Evgeny Kuznetsov (2)

- Gaetan Duchesne

- Peter Andersson

- Lou Franceschetti

- Mike Gartner

- John Tucker

- Randy Burridge

- Kelly Miller

- Brian Bellows

- Calle Johansson

- Chris Simon

- Dainius Zubrus

- Shaone Morrisonn

- Troy Brouwer

- Jay Beagle

- Nicklas Backstrom

- Tom Wilson

  • The Florida Panthers are the team most frequently victimized by the Caps in first-minute overtime goals. They were the victim five times:

- February 23, 2000. Chris Simon at 55 seconds in a 3-2 win in Washington.

- October 24, 2001. Peter Bondra at 45 seconds in a 4-3 win at Florida.

- March 6, 2011. Alexander Semin at 48 seconds in a 3-2 win at Florida.

- February 12, 2013. Troy Brouwer at 32 seconds in a 6-5 win at Florida.

- November 7, 2019. Tom Wilson at 17 seconds in a 5-4 win at Florida.

  • It was not the fastest goal scored by a Capital in an overtime game, but perhaps the most memorable in recent history was one scored by Shaone Morrisonn, on his birthday no less, 59 seconds into overtime to give the Caps a 5-4 win in New York over the Rangers on December 23, 2008. The Caps overcame a 0-4 deficit less than 25 minutes into the game to force the extra session before this:

  • The Caps have won a game in the first minute of an overtime playoff game only three times in team history:

- Kelly Miller scored 51 seconds into overtime to give the Caps a 4-3 win in Philadelphia over the Flyers in Game 3 of their Patrick Division Semi-Final matchup, the Caps going up two games to one. The Flyers won the series in six games.

- Rod Langway beat the New York Rangers 34 seconds into overtime of Game 4 of the 1990 Patrick Division Final in Washington. The Caps took a 3-1 lead in games and clinched the series in Game 5 on another overtime goal (John Druce, 6:48 into overtime for a 2-1 win). It was Langway’s first, and only goal of the 1989-1990 season, regular and postseason.

- Nicklas Backstrom scored 31 seconds into overtime in Game 2 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarter-Final against the Montreal Canadiens, completing a comeback from a 1-4 deficit in the second period and giving the Caps a 6-5 win in Washington. The Caps lost the series in seven games.

And if you are wondering, only once have the Caps allowed a first-minute goal in overtime in a playoff game. John Tavares did it for the New York Islanders, 15 seconds into overtime of Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, giving the Isles a 2-1 win and a 2-1 lead in games. The Caps had the last laugh, though, winning the series in seven games.