It was a game that had just about everything.
Jason Chimera’s first goal.
Steve Oleksy trying to fight Steve Ott as he skated away from him.
A monster penalty kill punctuated by a Mathieu Perreault goal.
Even goaltender Braden Holtby got into the act, trying to score his first NHL goal.
But the most important part of Sunday night’s 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center was what it means to the Capitals’ playoff chances.
With the win, the Caps moved into a virtual 12th-place tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning with 25 points, six behind the eighth-place Carolina Hurricanes and seven behind the Southeast-leading Winnipeg Jets.
“It’s the biggest week for us,” Ovechkin said. “We can end the season this week (or) we can continue to fight for the playoffs.”
The week continues Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, followed by back-to-back games in Winnipeg and a visit to MadisonSquareGarden on Sunday.
“It’s a big week and it started today,” Ribeiro said. “We came out with a purpose today but it’s over. We need to realize that and move on.”
The Caps scored 19 seconds into the game when Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to Ovechkin, who ripped a shot past Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller.
The Sabres tied it with Cody Hodgson’s first of two goals, but the Caps answered with three goals in 5:22.
The first came on a Troy Brouwer power-play goal when he roofed a shot over Miller for his 10th of the season and fifth on the power play.
Chimera made it 3-1 at the 9:45 mark when he ended the longest goal drought of his career at 27 games. Chimera, who scored a career-high 20 goals last season, hammered a Brouwer pass into the left side of the net, kicking off a huge celebration on the Capitals bench.
“I had tons of chances and it felt like goalies were making world-class saves against me,” Chimera said of his 27-game drought. “It’s a good feeling but the win is more important right now.”
Ribeiro enjoyed the goal so much he scooped up the puck for Chimera.
When Marcus Johansson finished off a scramble to give the Caps a 4-1 lead it looked like a rout was in order. But the Sabres stormed back with goals by Brian Flynn and Hodgson to make it 4-3 with 14:30 remaining in regulation.
That’s when things got a little crazy.
Oleksy went off for roughing when he dropped his gloves but saw Steve Ott leave him at the altar.
The Caps killed off the penalty and moments later Perreault turned Mark Pysyk inside out with a strong move to the middle and a high shot over Miller.
“Huge goal,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said.
In the closing minute, Holtby had a clear path toward an empty net goal, but his attempt didn’t make it the length of the ice, forcing him to settle for a two-goal win instead of a three-goal margin.
Having played three games in four nights the Caps will not practice on Monday, instead using the day to travel to Pittsburgh for what Ovechkin called the biggest week of the season.