Capitals vs Hurricanes: Alex Ovechkin scores to end eight-game goal drought in 3-2 win

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 27, 2010; 12:00 AM

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Washington Capitals returned from a two-day holiday break hoping to reclaim a measure of momentum and the crux of their identity, oddly missing during an early December skid, as a potent offensive force.

They managed both on a rare, snow-covered night in Raleigh, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, thanks largely to a key assist and subsequent goal from star forward Alex Ovechkin, who snapped an eight-game drought.

Ovechkin fed the puck to David Steckel for the go-ahead goal midway through the second period to put the Capitals ahead 2-1. Then, with a deft flick of the wrist, he sent a bouncing puck into the net for a long-awaited goal of his own with 1 minute 58 seconds remaining in the period.

Washington's Mathieu Perreault got the scoring going with an even-strength goal at 13:33 in the first period, but minutes later he was helped off the ice with a broken nose, unable to return, as a result of a brutal hit by the Hurricanes' Tim Gleason, who was ejected for his antics.

None of the Caps' goals was scored on a power play, a continuing source of concern.

But Coach Bruce Boudreau said he saw progress in his players' power-play effort. And that, too, is one measure of the momentum the Capitals so desperately seek, heading into the much anticipated clash with Pittsburgh in the NHL's Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Heinz Field and into the heart of the hockey season beyond.

In their last game before taking the NHL-mandated holiday break, the Caps fell at home to Pittsburgh on Thursday in a 3-2 shootout loss.

"The good thing" about Sunday's victory, said defenseman Mike Green, "was that we didn't stray away mentally from what we did well at home against Pittsburgh. I felt like we had three or four minutes of the game where we had a lapse. But other than that, we played strong."

With Sunday's victory, the Capitals (21-12-5) swept their road series with the Hurricanes for the first time since 1997-98, when the former Hartford Whalers moved to Greensboro.

Ovechkin overcame his shooting slump. And Semyon Varlamov made an impressive return at goaltender, tapped to start after Michal Neuvirth, who had been instrumental in helping the Caps slough off their sub-par stretch earlier this month, experienced soreness after Sunday morning's skate.

Valamov had 33 saves in the game, including two terrific ones during back-to-back Carolina power plays in a frantic late effort in the third period.

"You just knew he was chomping at the bit because he hadn't played the last three games," Boudreau said. "I was expecting a big game."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company