New Coach, New Vibe As Caps Win 2nd Straight
Sunday, November 25, 2007
When the Washington Capitals were last seen on home ice three days ago, the players were booed mercilessly, and derisive chants were directed toward the bench as the Atlanta Thrashers poured it on.
Last night, the vibe inside Verizon Center couldn't have been any more different. Neither could the result.
The Capitals, revitalized by a Thanksgiving day coaching change, scored three goals on the power play for the first time this season, and Olie Kolzig made 35 saves as they knocked off the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2.
The victory was the Capitals' second in two days, just their third overall at home and gave the team its first winning streak, modest as it is, since the first week of the season. The back-to-back wins -- they defeated the Flyers in Philadelphia, 4-3, in overtime on Friday -- have come under interim coach Bruce Boudreau, who replaced Glen Hanlon on Thursday and seems to have unlocked the team's offensive potential after two months of struggling at even strength and on the power play.
"Once they taste success, you get hungrier for it because it's great to be happy," Boudreau said. "When you're losing, you get dejected. Life is no fun. There's a lot to work on, but it's a great start."
Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Michael Nylander had a goal and two assists as the Capitals controlled play for long stretches against one of the league's best teams. But the story was the power play, which hadn't scored three goals in a game since Feb. 27, a 6-5 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers.
"Obviously, we're playing with a lot more energy in the offensive zone," said Kolzig, who started games on consecutive nights for the first time this season. "As a result, we've scored nine goals in the past two games. And our power play, it's been our Achilles' heel. But we've got the talent in here to be successful on it."
The Capitals opened the game with three straight goals with the man advantage, opening a 3-0 lead. But like Friday at Wachovia Center, they found themselves hanging on in the final minutes.
Carolina winger Ray Whitney curled around the net and redirected a point shot by Glen Wesley 2 minutes 9 seconds into the third period to get the Hurricanes within striking distance, 3-2.
But Kolzig made several critical saves in the clutch, and Ovechkin put it away with his second goal of the night with 1:50 left to play. Boyd Gordon added an empty-net goal to cap the win, their second in three games against the Hurricanes.
Known for his team's aggressive forechecking and power-play wizardry, Boudreau has made some important changes that are already paying off.
The most noticeable difference has come on the power play, where there's more movement from all five players and discernibly more involvement from the defensemen.