By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Alex Ovechkin provided all of Washington's offense in the first 65 minutes of Saturday night's game. Then the two-time MVP scored the only goal in the shootout to lift the Capitals to their second straight victory, a 3-2 decision over a Nashville Predators team they probably should have finished off in regulation.
"We had them 2-0 there, and they are a team that is mentally battling themselves right now," center Brendan Morrison said. "I think if we get that third goal, the floodgates open. But we didn't and we let them back in it."
Although the Capitals earned two points, it probably never should have come down to a shootout. The Predators, who have one of the three lowest payrolls in the NHL, entered the night having been outscored 16-2 in their previous four games, all losses. Ovechkin, in fact, came in with as many points -- 14 -- as all of the Predators forwards combined.
But after getting a pair of first-period goals from Ovechkin and taking a 2-0 lead deep into the second period, the Capitals let up and the Predators pounced.
"When we had them up 2-0 we let them hang around too long," winger Mike Knuble said. "It almost came back to bite us."
Nashville rallied on a blast by Shea Weber and bad-bounce goal from J.P. Dumont in the span of 1 minute 35 seconds to send the game into the third period tied, 2-2, and raise more questions about Semyon Varlamov's ability to refocus after yielding a goal.
Weber fired a drop pass from Patric Hornqvist over Varlamov's glove, and a shift later, Dumont intercepted a clearing attempt by defenseman Jeff Schultz before firing a shot from an impossibly tight angle along the boards that deflected in off Brian Pothier's skate.
Like that, the Capitals' once-comfortable lead was gone.
"If we're going to be nitpicking, he shot the puck from such a bad angle and it hit Pothier in the shin pad and it went between [Varlamov's] pads, those things happen," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was a shot from a really bad angle that he'll stop 100 out of 100 times."
Varlamov, who improved to 3-0-0 after making 22 saves, added: "That's happened [a few times] this season. I try not to pay attention to giving up goals in bunches. I try to forget about the goals when they score them."
Other than Nashville's second goal, though, Varlamov was good when he needed to be. Twice on the Capitals' first power play, the 21-year-old stopped short-handed breakaways to keep things scoreless, turning away Joel Ward on a deke and Weber on a slap shot.
After Varlamov's early heroics, Eric Fehr drew his second penalty of the period, putting the Capitals on the power play.
Fifteen seconds later, Ovechkin opened the scoring 5:27 into the game with his first power-play goal of the season. Mike Green set up the strike with a pass from the point to Ovechkin, who one-timed the puck past Dan Ellis a split second before the goalie could scurry get across the crease. Washington's power play has scored in all but one game.
Ovechkin pushed the lead to 2-0 thanks to a fortuitous bounce off the side boards. Morrison lofted a long pass from the Capitals' zone that kicked off the boards at the Predators' blue line -- right to a rushing Ovechkin, who blasted between Teemu Laakso and Kevin Klein and slipped the puck through Ellis's pads.
"By no means was it tape to tape," Morrison said. "I just threw it up and he got it."
After a scoreless third period and overtime, Ovechkin beat Ellis by faking him to the ice with a couple of shakes before whipping the puck into the vacated net.
Some in the Washington crowd reacted oddly by throwing hats onto the ice, despite the fact that Ovechkin's shootout goal didn't constitute a hat trick.
Boudreau, however, was able to laugh about it later thanks to a save by Varlamov on Martin Erat in the shootout.
"I don't think it's ever been done in the history of hockey," Boudreau said, chuckling. "It's a Washington original."
Capitals Notes: Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn was a late scratch because of a lower body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Tyler Sloan. . . .
The condition of goaltender José Theodore (back spasms) has improved, Boudreau said. Boudreau hopes Theodore can return to practice on Monday. . . .
Center Boyd Gordon (sore back) missed his second consecutive game, as did defenseman John Erskine (bruised hand).. . .
Prospect Braden Holtby, a fourth-round draft pick in 2008, was sent back to South Carolina of the ECHL after the game.