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Ovechkin says his turnover vs. Buffalo “cost us the game”

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 22: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals fixes his visor during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 22, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Capitals 2-1 in the shootout. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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On Tuesday, Jason Pominville scored Buffalo’s fourth goal in a 5-1 win over the Caps. Reading the boxscore or watching the game highlights, that goal may not have seemed decisive -- it was the second of Buffalo’s three insurance markers, after all -- but the play from which it came was a major statement.

More, from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News:

The Buffalo Sabres were down to three defensemen, two in the dressing room injured and another in the penalty box. The Washington Capitals were on a power play looking to pull within a goal after trailing, 3-0, early in the second period. The Verizon Center crowd was roaring.

Then came a play that might be the defining moment of these teams’ battle for the final playoff spot in the East.

The puck rolled softly to the Buffalo blue line and Alex Ovechkin played it nonchalantly at the left point. Jason Pominvile outworked Ovechkin on the boards and took off, with his opposing captain hardly getting back with any force.

Pominville beat Michal Neuvirth between the legs for a short-handed goal that gave the Sabres a 4-1 lead. They never looked back in a 5-1 win.

Ovechkin? He slammed his stick against the back of the net and trudged to the bench.

“I should play [the puck] with my skate, not my stick,” Ovechkin told the Washington Post. “This mistake probably cost us the game.”

The loss leaves Washington in a precarious state: Five games left in the regular season (none against Buffalo) with three of them on the road, where the Caps are 14-20-4 this year.

In that light, Ovechkin’s turnover might not have been just a game-changing gaffe.

It could be a season-changing one as well.