Eight Gets the Caps Two –Alex Ovechkin scored two first period goals and then netted the only tally in the shootout as the Capitals squeaked out a 3-2 shootout triumph over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at Verizon Center. The Caps closed out their three-game homestand with a 2-0-1 mark.
For the second time in three games on the homestand, the Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead but were unable to put away the opposition in regulation. The Capitals owned a 2-0 advantage over New Jersey in the homestand’s opener on Monday, but dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in that one.
“When we had them up 2-0 we let them hang around too long and that’s when teams are kind of dangerous,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble. “You’ve got to get that third one to finish them. We had trouble, took some penalties, which takes guys off the ice and gets them out of sync. Next thing you know they score and they’re back in the game. It almost came back to bite us.”
Ovechkin’s first goal was a rocket of a one-timer from the left circle on the power play. In the 19th minute of the first, he outraced a Nashville defender to chase down a Brendan Morrison lob pass. He then tucked the puck beneath Dan Ellis’ pads to put the Caps up 2-0.
Nashville came into the game with just seven goals in six games on the season. Aside from two early shorthanded breakaways, the Preds generated very little offense until defenseman Shea Weber unleashed a bomb of a shot to beat Varlamov high to the glove side at 14:29 of the second.
The Preds evened it up on a fluky goal just 95 seconds later. Varlamov had shown a tendency to give up goals in bunches earlier this season and back into the preseason, but he bolted the door this time.
“That’s happened [a few times] this season,” says Varlamov. I try not to pay attention to giving goals in bunches. I tried to forget about the goals when they scored them. I concentrate on my game.”
Nashville generated just eight even-strength shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, but the game was deadlocked at 2-2 heading into the third.
Washington had a number of strong scoring chances throughout the game, including several in the third. Dan Ellis was very strong in the Nashville nets, stopping 33 of 35 shots on the night and each of the last 27 he faced.
Varlamov stopped 12 in a row to finish the game and then stoned the Preds in the shootout, stopping all three Nashville bids.
“We’re happy for him,” says Knuble. “He’s come in and played really well. He held us in there, especially in that first period. We were a little bit sloppy on the [first] power play, especially to give up those two breakaways. He made the saves he had to make and kept us in the game. He is playing with a lot more confidence as a result.
Varlamov remained unbeaten in regulation for his NHL career, running his record to 7-0-1 lifetime in the regular season.
Bad Boys – San Jose dug a first period hole for itself on Thursday, taking five minors in the game’s first 20 minutes. The Preds got off to a tough start on Saturday, going down a man when Wade Belak took a bad roughing call early in the first. Nashville managed to kill that penalty, but could not kill the one that Jerred Smithson took four seconds after Belak’s expired.
Keeping Up With the Predators – Ovechkin has as many goals in 2009-10 (nine) as the Predators have scored in their seven games. The Capitals are now 25-0-2 in the last 27 games in which Ovechkin has scored more than one goal.
Ovechkin has nine goals in eight games this season. He scored his ninth goal in the 19th game of the 2008-09 season on his way to a 56-goal campaign.
The Caps star left wing now has scored 114 goals on home ice and 114 goals on enemy ice.
New Meat – For the second game in a row, Ovechkin scored two goals in a period against a netminder against whom he had not previously scored. Ovechkin victimized San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov for the first time in his career with a pair of second-period goals on Thursday, and did so again with two in the first against Nashville’s Dan Ellis tonight.
Ovechkin has now scored 228 career NHL goals against 69 different goaltenders
Flawless Firsts – Tonight was Washington’s fifth home game of the season, and the Caps have now outscored the opposition by 9-1 in the first period of those five home games. Only San Jose has scored a first-period goal against the Capitals this season at Verizon Center.
Overall, the Caps have outscored the opposition by a combined 11-2 in first periods this season and they have not trailed at any point in the first 20 minutes of their first eight games.
500 Club – Caps right wing Matt Bradley played in his 500th career NHL game tonight against the Predators. He debuted with the San Jose Sharks in 2000-01 and has also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Bradley has played the lion’s share of his NHL career (297 games) here in Washington.
Suited Up – Goaltender Braden Holtby was in uniform and on the bench as Varlamov’s back-up for Saturday night’s game. After opening the season by going 2-1 with a 1.01 GAA and a .967 save pct. in three games with AHL Hershey, Holtby was reassigned to ECHL South Carolina earlier in the week.
With Jose Theodore sidelined because of back spasms, Holtby was summoned from Charleston for tonight’s game. The 20-year-old Holtby was Washington’s fourth-round (93rd overall) choice in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He is in his first professional season.
Holtby was sent back to South Carolina after Saturday night’s game with Nashville.
Tight Tilts – Dating back to last season, Saturday’s contest was the third Caps-Preds game in succession to go to overtime or beyond. The Caps are 3-0-0 in those games and have won the last four meetings between the two teams overall.
Thanks For the ‘Tender – The Caps drafted Varlamov with a draft pick (the 23rd overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft) obtained from Nashville. Washington sent defenseman Brendan Witt to the Preds for Nashville’s first-round pick and center Kris Beech on Mar. 9, 2006. The 2006 draft is the only one in Nashville’s franchise history in which it did not make a first-round pick, having dealt it to the Caps.
No Shot – The Predators went 17:53 without getting a shot on goal, from 12:39 of the first period until 10:32 of the second. Nashville had only 13 shots on goal in its previous game, a 3-1 home ice loss to Chicago on Thursday.
By The Numbers – Quintin Laing skated 17:21 on Saturday night, a single-game career high. His previous best was 15:11 against the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Dec. 15, 2007 … Milan Jurcina led the way for Washington with four blocked shots and with three hits … Tyler Sloan blocked three shots and logged 7:22 of his 16:50 on the night after the first 40 minutes … Eric Fehr had just three shifts after the first period, Keith Aucoin had only four and Chris Clark had six as Caps coach Bruce Boudreau went largely with three lines over the game’s final 45 minutes.
Down on the Farm – A night after 2-1 loss to the Adirondack Phantoms in Glens Falls, N.Y., the AHL Hershey Bears traveled to Binghamton for a Saturday night date with the Baby Sens.
Alexandre Giroux got the Bears started with his fourth goal of the season at 4:23 of the first period. Binghamton rebounded with one in the first and one in the second before Hershey’s John Carlson knotted the score with his first of the season on a Bears power play at 9:33 of the second stanza.
Neither team scored in the third, and it took a Giroux goal at 1:11 of overtime to send the Bears home victorious.
Hershey is now idle until Friday when it visits the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays set about the defense of their 2009 Kelly Cup championship on Friday night when they raised their third Kelly Cup banner before hosting Wheeling at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Rays got four goals in the first period and held on for a 5-4 win in their season opener. Rob Ricci scored twice to pace the attack and Todd Ford made 24 saves to earn the win. Caps prospects Joe Finley and Jake Hauswirth each collected an assist, the first professional point for both players.
On Saturday night the Stingrays hosted the Charlotte Checkers. The Checkers handed the Stingrays their first loss of the season, a 3-1 defeat.
South Carolina is back in action again on Tuesday when it hosts Gwinnett.
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