Matthieu Perreault scored twice as the Capitals finally ended a crippling eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.
After the final whistle, the Capitals jumped over the boards and mobbed goaltender Michal Neuvirth, pushing his net all the way back to the end boards.
It may have seemed like a celebration more suited to a Stanley Cup championship than a regular season win. But given the lengthy skid that saw the Capitals fall in the Eastern Conference standings and temporarily lose control of first place in the Southeast Division, the Capitals can be excused for their exuberance.
"It feels like we won the championship," Perreault said. "It's been so long since we won. It's just a great feeling."
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau joked that he would "finally be able to sleep."
Eric Fehr also scored for the Capitals (19-12-4), who moved a point ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers and reclaimed first place in the Southeast.
Neuvirth struggled early allowing two Ottawa goals in the first period, but redeemed himself later and stopped 24 shots.
Ryan Shannon and Chris Kelly scored for the Senators (14-17-4), while Brian Elliott made 31 saves.
The win was that much more rewarding considering the Capitals trailed 2-0 after the first period.
"We kept our head up and we knew we could come back since we've done it so many times before," Perreault said. "It's great that we got those two points."
The Senators opened the scoring at the seven-minute mark as Shannon made the most of traffic in front of Neuvirth, who barely had a chance to see the right-wing's shot.
Ottawa made it 2-0 on Kelly's eighth of the season. Kelly finished a great give-and-go with Chris Neil when he got the puck right in front of Neuvirth and easily scored.
"We got off to a great start and then we have a bad start in the second period," said Ottawa's Jason Spezza. "Obviously it's a tough one to swallow when you have the lead."
Elliott made a huge save on Mike Knuble late in the first, swatting the puck just as it was about to cross the goal-line. Fehr then put the puck past Elliott, but time had expired and it looked to be another one of those nights for Washington.
"We made mistakes and they used it," said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. "It was good for us that we came back in a pretty hard game for us. It's a big two points for us, huge two points."
The Capitals quickly made up for the missed chance, scoring two goals in 80 seconds at the start of the second period to tie it 2-2.
After some poor defensive coverage by the Senators, Perreault was left all alone to jump on a rebound in the crease and finally get the Capitals on the board.
Moments later, Fehr caught a break when his shot just squeezed by Elliott, who wasn't tight enough to the post.
Ottawa coach Cory Clouston called a timeout in an effort to calm his team down, but it did little as the Senators struggled through much of the period.
Washington took the lead at 6:55 of the second with a power-play goal. After Elliott made a great stick save on a shot, Perreault got to the loose puck and Elliott wasn't able to recover fast enough.
Perreault pumped his fist in the air and slid on his knees after scoring, clearly showing the Capitals' relief at finally having the lead.
"Three goals is a massive output for this team in the last ten games," Boudreau said. "When you look at the bench and they're jumping up so high for one goal, you know they just wanted to win so badly. I'm just happy for them."
It was nearly 4-2 after Ovechkin beat Elliott, but the goal was disallowed as Ovechkin kicked it in.
Despite a much better effort in the third, the Senators were unable to beat Neuvirth again.