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Capitals 3, Coyotes 2

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WASHINGTON -- If the Washington Capitals somehow find their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for a seventh straight spring, they will look back on Saturday night as a big reason.

Trailing by two goals midway through the third period and staring at a four-point deficit in the Metropolitan Division standings, the Capitals staged a dramatic rally, scoring three times in just over five minutes to pull off a 3-2 victory in front of an energized crowd at the Verizon Center.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Capitals and moved them within two points of the New York Rangers for the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The loss halted a two-game win streak for the Coyotes, who started the night one point behind the Dallas Stars for the eighth and final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Defenseman Karl Alzner, left winger Brooks Laich and right winger Troy Brouwer scored consecutive goals to bring the Capitals back from a 2-0 deficit.

Alzner started the rally with 9:45 remaining in the third period when his wrist shot from the left point sailed past teammate Jay Beagle and Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle and under the crossbar against Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.

The Caps tied the score 32 seconds later when left winger Jason Chimera found Laich all alone in front for a tap-in.

A tripping penalty on right winger David Moss put the Capitals' second-ranked power play on the ice and Brouwer provided the winner with 5:13 remaining, shooting center Nicklas Backstrom's rebound into a wide-open net for his 19th goal of the season.

The Coyotes controlled play through two periods, getting goals from left winger Brandon McMillan and right winger Radim Vrbata to carry a 2-0 lead into the third period.

McMillan got a step on Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov and snapped a shot past the blocker of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was making his Washington debut after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. The goal was McMillan's first of the season.

The Coyotes doubled that lead 3:20 into the second period when, with Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen serving a tripping penalty, Vrbata snapped a long shot that trickled though the pads of Halak and out the other side, rolling into the net for Vrbata's 18th goal of the season.

It looked as though the Coyotes might cruise to their third straight win, but the Capitals had other ideas in the third period.

NOTES: The game featured four players facing their former team. Coyotes C Jeff Halpern played for Washington two seasons ago, Coyotes C Mike Ribeiro played for the Capitals last season and Coyotes LW Martin Erat played for the Capitals last week. On March 5, Erat was sent to Phoenix in exchange for LW Chris Brown, who played his first game against the team that drafted him in 2009. "It was shocking to get traded," Brown said before the game. "But to get the call right away to play in the National Hockey League is an honor. It would be nice to get my first goal against the team that traded me." ... Capitals coach Adam Oates acknowledged Erat's trade request had become a distraction in the locker room. "If a guy publicly says he doesn't want to be here, it's very hard to go to war with that guy every night, it really is," Oates said. "It's more of a camaraderie thing. It's hard to go to dinner with a guy who basically doesn't want to be with you in a sense." ... Capitals LW Brooks Laich returned to the lineup after missing one game with a lower body injury. He played on a top line with C Nicklas Backstrom and RW Alex Ovechkin. ... Phoenix was without C Martin Hanzal (lower body) and D Schlemko (undisclosed). ... The Coyotes continue their four-game road trip on Monday night in Tampa against the Lightning. They continue with stops in Florida and Boston. Washington returns to action on Monday night at home when it begins a crucial home-and-home set with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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