WASHINGTON -- Trailing the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 after two periods and in desperate need of offense, the Washington Capitals got a simple message during the second intermission.
"Just stop feeling sorry for ourselves," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It's time to get real."
After being held scoreless for more than five full periods, dating to a 6-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, the Capitals scored three times in a span of 5:02 of the third period for a 3-2 victory against the Coyotes on Saturday night at Verizon Center.
Phoenix, which kicked off a four-game Eastern Conference road trip, remained on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture.
"To win hockey games in this League, you have to pay the price to win them," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "In the critical times of the game we don't pay the price to win. We have that and some of the issues with taking bad penalties in the third period, and it has caught up with us."
He added, "We do things very well for long periods of time except the breakdowns come back and bite us. That’s where we are.”
But like Sunday vs. St. Louis, Phoenix blew a 2-0 lead after two periods and lost.
"It’s a game of mistakes and when you make them they capitalize and it’s going to cost you," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "Tonight we weren’t good enough when we made the mistakes, and they capitalized."
Troy Brouwer jammed a power-play rebound past Mike Smith for the game-winning goal with 5:13 remaining in regulation. Alzner and Brooks Laich also scored for Washington, which snapped an 0-2-1 slide and boosted its hopes in the Stanley Cup Playoff race.
The Capitals moved within one point of the idle Detroit Red Wings, who hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are two points behind the New York Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Washington paid the price for slow starts in losses to the Flyers on Wednesday and the Boston Bruins on Thursday. This time, they were able to dig themselves out of a two-goal hole.
"We've had a couple of starts in our last few games that haven't been acceptable on our terms," Brouwer said. "And going into the third it was the same story again. We need points. It's against a team in a different conference, but we still need points whether it's 20 minutes, 25 or a shootout, we need still need two points. We know that we're at a point where our season is on the line every single game and that should be enough motivation in here and it was [Saturday]."
Jaroslav Halak, acquired Wednesday from the Buffalo Sabres, made 31 saves in his Washington debut.
After registering a season-low eight shots through 40 minutes in each of their previous two games, the Capitals pushed the pace in the early going and had nine shots in the first 11:07. However, Washington did not put a shot on goal during the final 8:53 of the period, and Phoenix took a 1-0 lead with 1:02 remaining.
With the Capitals in the midst of a line change, Keith Yandle collected a turnover in the neutral zone and sent a quick pass to McMillan, who outraced Mike Green and beat Halak with a wrist shot.
McMillan believed he had scored a goal several minutes earlier. At 12:11, he jammed the puck past Halak during a scrum in the crease, but the referees waved it off after it was ruled that McMillan pushed Halak's pad across the goal line.
The Coyotes made it 2-0 at 3:20 of the second period when Michael Stone's power-play point shot trickled through Halak's pads; Vrbata pushed the loose puck over the goal line for his 18th of the season.
Phoenix dictated the flow of play throughout the second period and well into the third before Washington came alive.
"It seemed like we stopped playing the way we played in the first and the second [periods]," Vrbata said. "When you have a 2-0 lead going into the third, you have to find a way to win, and we didn't."
The Capitals woke up after Alzner's floating snap shot from the left point eluded Smith at 9:45. Laich tied the game 32 seconds later by slamming in a centering pass from Jason Chimera.
Brouwer's 18th goal of the season then gave the Capitals a much-needed victory.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle earned an assist on Vrbata's goal, the 200th of his NHL career. Yandle is just the sixth defenseman in franchise history to hit the 200-assists mark.
The Coyotes continue their Eastern road swing on Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.