Alex Ovechkin scores two goals but Capitals fall to Dallas Stars in shootout, ending home winning streak

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010; D01

Alex Ovechkin's slump is over. But so is the Washington Capitals' winning streak at Verizon Center.

Loui Eriksson scored in the fifth round of the shootout to lift the Dallas Stars to a 4-3 victory and hand the Capitals their first loss on home ice since Dec. 28, a 13-game run.

Ovechkin ended a six-game drought with a pair of goals, the second coming with 3 minutes 16 seconds remaining in regulation to force the game into overtime after a third-period "hiccup" that saw the Capitals squander a 2-0 lead.

The two-time MVP's timely tally, however, was not enough.

"I thought the entire team had a hiccup in the third period," said Coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team dropped to 4-4 in games decided by the shootout. They came on and thought, 'Hey, we're still in the game.' Once they got the first one, I knew it was going to be a dogfight."

Stars goalie Marty Turco, who at times looked unbeatable and was named the game's first star, made three of his career-high 49 saves in overtime. Then the Stars' 34-year-old veteran turned back four of the five shooters he faced in penalty shots.

"He's been struggling all year, then he comes in here," Capitals forward Eric Belanger said of Turco. "He came up huge for them."

Boudreau added: "It's not every day you fire 52 shots. It was a lot of long ones, but he made a lot of real good saves. He was one top of his game."

At the other end, Varlamov struggled in the third period. He stopped all 16 shots he faced in the first 40 minutes, but he yielded three goals -- including two on the power play -- on six shots in the span of 6:20 as Dallas seized a 3-2 lead early in the third period.

Brad Richards started the Stars' rally, blasting a one timer from the top of the circle past Varlamov with defenseman Mike Green was in the penalty box for hooking.

About two minutes later, Matt Bradley was banished for holding, and 61 seconds after he took a seat, Trevor Daley sent a wrist shot from the point over Varlamov's glove.

The Stars weren't done. James Neal beat Varlamov with a routine wrist shot at 7:53 to put the Stars ahead 3-2.

Ovechkin, who moved into a tie with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with 44 goals, knotted the score after taking a pass from Nicklas Backstrom in the neutral zone, cutting to the middle before snapping a shot over Turco's glove.

"It was not 'finally,' " said Ovechkin, who took a game-high 10 shots. "Sometimes you just need some lucky goal."

As good as Ovechkin was, though, the two-time MVP was also stopped from point-blank range midway through overtime. Turco also stopped him in the shootout.

Asked if the Capitals were outplayed in goal, Boudreau said, "Yeah. I think so."

After yielding 10 goals on 57 shots in his previous two starts, Varlamov needed a strong effort to reestablish himself in the competition with veteran José Theodore, and his performance in the third period will do little to assure Boudreau that he's completely recovered from groin and knee injuries that cost him two months.

"The first two periods he was good," Boudreau said. "He was stopping the puck and he was smooth. The rebounds were not under control like he can do it."

The Capitals' goaltending problems actually began in the first period. But it had nothing to do with Varlamov.

They scored first for the fourth consecutive contest after defenseman Tom Poti pinched deep into the slot, and with no Stars within three strides of him, snagged a crossing pass from David Steckel and snapped it past Turco's blocker to open a 1-0 lead at 2:51.

It's all Turco gave them, despite matching a season high for shots in a period with 19, including five off of the stick of Alexander Semin.

Turco was just as sharp in the second period and third period, stopping 28 of 30 shots.

"He was great," Nicklas Backstrom said. "I guess that happens in hockey sometimes."

Capitals notes: Tomas Fleischmann was a healthy scratch for the first time this season because Boudreau said the wingers was fatigued from the Olympics and could benefit from a day off. . . . Boudreau also scratched Shaone Morrisonn after the defenseman's turnover Saturday that nearly led to a goal for the New York Rangers. . . . Minor leaguer Keith Aucoin signed a two-year extension, two-way contract with NHL salaries of $500,000 next season and $525,000 in 2011-12. The 31-year-old has appeared in nine games for the Capitals this season, but none since Dec. 9.

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