Caps Start Trip Off on High Note
Ovechkin's Offense, Defense Key Their Victory in Denver: Capitals 5, Avalanche 3

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 26, 2006

DENVER, Oct. 25 Alex Ovechkin broke open a close game in the second period. Then the star left wing broke the boards in the third.

In other words, it was a vintage Ovechkin performance at Pepsi Center, where his goal, and Olie Kolzig's play in net, clinched a 5-3 win before an announced crowd of 17,047.

Chris Clark, Mike Green, Dainius Zubrus and Matt Bradley also scored for the Capitals, who claimed their first road win. Kolzig finished with 45 saves; Colorado's backup netminder, Peter Budaj, had 25.

"Before the game we talked about starting off the road trip strong," Bradley said. "We didn't have a great first period, but Olie kept us in the game. And what can you say about Ovie? Nothing he does surprises me anymore."

In a game full of highlights, one stands above them all. It happened seconds into the third period, when Ovechkin laid a board-rattling shoulder check on Colorado defenseman Karlis Skrastins. The impact shattered the glass, sending shards into the penalty box and onto the ice. Play was halted for about five minutes while maintenance workers made the necessary repairs.

"I told Ovie, 'You're always trying to make the highlights,' " Kolzig joked. "Skrastins isn't a little guy, either. He's usually the one dishing them out. I'm sure they'll play that one over and over like they did with 'The Goal' last year."

Coach Glen Hanlon added, "It was so typical of Alex to score a great goal, break the glass and even get an opportunity on a penalty shot by blocking a shot."

The penalty shot Hanlon referred to came with 8 minutes 2 seconds left to play after Avalanche defenseman Ken Klee dragged down Ovechkin from behind. Ovechkin, however, misfired high and wide.

Asked what was more exciting -- his timely goal, splattering Skrastins, or taking the penalty shot -- Ovechkin cracked a wide smile, and said: "Breaking the glass. First time for me. I was surprised, like wow, I'm strong."

Ovechkin got a scare in the final seconds when he was hit on the right leg by a slap shot off the stick of Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. Ovechkin went down hard and limped to the locker room, but later said he was "okay."

Andrew Brunette's second goal of the game, with Budaj pulled for an extra attacker and the Avalanche already on the power play, trimmed the deficit to 4-3 with 2:38 left.

But an empty-net goal by Bradley with 35 seconds remaining sent the Capitals on their way with some much-needed momentum.

The victory opened a grueling four game road trip against the Northwest Division. The Capitals departed immediately afterward for Vancouver, where they'll practice Thursday before facing the Canucks the following night.

After spending half of the first period killing penalties, the Capitals regrouped in the second. Green skated the puck end to end, faked Budaj to the ice and calmly deposited it into the net to snap a 1-1 tie at 8:52. Then, 1:38 later, Ovechkin rifled a wrist shot from the circle on the power play to put the Capitals ahead 3-1.

Colorado never recovered.

"When you go on these four game road trips, it sets the rest of the trip, and it's so much more enjoyable when you get that first win," Hanlon said. "It was huge. Everybody contributed when they had an opportunity to."

Washington was 1 for 3 on the power play; Colorado was 1 for 7.

In the first period, Clark turned a misplayed puck in the Colorado end into a 1-0 lead for the Capitals 53 seconds into the game.

Kolzig protected the Capitals' edge moments later with what likely was his best save of this young season. The Avalanche was on the power play when Wojtek Wolski whipped a pass through the crease to Paul Stastny. Kolzig slid across the crease and stopped Stastny with his glove.

Kolzig, however, couldn't prevent Brunette from grabbing a rebound and snapping it from the slot into the net. Joe Sakic's assist was his 1,500th point, good for 11th in NHL history.

The first period only got worse for the Capitals, who couldn't stay out of the penalty box. But they regrouped in the second behind the timely scoring of Green and Ovechkin.

A goal by Sakic early in the third period trimmed the Avalanche's deficit to 3-2. Zubrus's score moments later restored the Capitals' two-goal cushion.

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