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Gonchar scores winner for Senators against Caps


Gonchar scores winner for Senators against Caps

OTTAWA (AP) Sergei Gonchar scored on the power play with 2:30 left in regulation as the Ottawa Senators battled back from a sluggish start to defeat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Tuesday.

Jim O'Brien and Milan Michalek also scored for the Senators (4-1-1), who got 31 saves from Craig Anderson.

Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks scored for the Capitals (1-4-1). Michal Neuvirth stopped 24 shots in taking the loss for Washington, which blew a 2-0 lead.

Gonchar's winner came after Erik Karlsson wove through the Capitals' defense on a man advantage before finding his partner, who fired a one-timer that deflected of Hendricks in front and past Neuvirth with Ottawa's Chris Neil screening on the play.

Then with time winding down and Washington pressing for the tie, Anderson made a great save on Alex Ovechkin before robbing Mike Ribeiro from in tight.

Trailing 2-0 late in the second period and looking for a spark, Senators coach Paul MacLean chose to double-shift the one line that showed any jump.

The gamble paid off as O'Brien, who celebrated his 24th birthday, cut the lead in half with 1:23 remaining in the period on a setup from Erik Conda and AHL call-up Mika Zibanejad.

The Senators then quickly tied the game at 2:20 of the third. Kyle Turris won a faceoff in the offensive zone and pushed the puck ahead to Michalek, who scooped it passed a surprised Neuvirth.

Playing without Jason Spezza because of an undisclosed upper body injury, the Senators struggled and the Capitals owned much of the momentum in the first period and jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

A turnover by Guillaume Latendresse midway through the period at the Senators' blue-line allowed Wojtek Wolski to jump on the puck and feed Brouwer, who caught Anderson moving the wrong way.

Washington then made it 2-0 as Hendricks tipped Jay Beagle's shot home.

The Senators continued to struggle in the second and seemed incapable of breaking through the Capitals' forecheck as Washington pinned the home side in its own end for nearly two minutes, leading to a chorus of boos from the 19,267 on hand at Scotiabank Place.

Notes: LW Kaspars Daugavins and D Andre Benoit were healthy scratches for the Senators. Apart from Spezza, D Jared Cowen (hip, out for season), D Mike Lundin (finger, two weeks) also missed out. ... C Brooks Laich (strained groin, out indefinitely), D Jack Hillen (upper body, out indefinitely) sat for Washington with injuries, while C Marcus Johansson, D Tom Poti and D Roman Hamrlik were healthy scratches.

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Caps' penalty kill has 'room for improvement'

Caps' penalty kill has 'room for improvement'

The Capitals’ penalty kill unit has allowed a goal in four of the first five games this season, including one in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center.

As with every statistic this time of year, it comes with the following disclaimer: it’s a small sample size. That said, the Caps know that the unit can—and should—be better, particularly after it ranked second in the NHL last year.

“We’ve got some new people there,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “But we’ve also have a lot of the same people.”

Washington’s penalty kill percentage currently sits at 71.4 as the team prepares to depart on a four-game trip to Western Canada. Last year, the unit’s percentage was 85.2. Only Anaheim’s penalty kill was better.

“It’s a mentality,” Trotz said. “Once you start digging yourself a little bit of a hole, you get worried about it. We just need a little confidence going for it. It’s not that we don’t have any, but we just have to get everybody on the same page. We’re not quite there yet, but we will be.”


Since snuffing out all three of the Avalanche’s power play opportunities two games ago, the Panthers and Rangers each struck once. And both times, the goals were big ones.

On Thursday night in South Florida, Jaromir Jagr scored on the man advantage late in the second period to even the score 2-2. The Panthers squeezed off six shots on four power plays in that game.

On Saturday, Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey tallied midway through the second period to knot the score 2-2. New York got off four shots on three opportunities in the contest.  

“I think the first two games, [the goals] were just kind of [deflections],” said defenseman Karl 

Alzner, who is averaging almost two minutes of shorthanded ice time per game. “Even today was a little bit of a pinball out to the backdoor.”

Alzner added: “We just have to see what other teams are doing and continue to get in lanes and block shots. And when we make our switches and stuff like that, it seems like we’re at times a little bit slow to do it. We want to pressure, but we have pressure smart. And if we’re not [in sync], it happens to any penalty kill. I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks right now on paper, but, yeah, we’d like to be better.”

Newcomer Lars Eller said he isn’t overly concerned yet, in part, because he feels opposing power plays have benefited from some fortuitous bounces and those bounces will even out over time.

“You can always improve,” Eller said. “I don’t think it’s the reason we lost [to New York]. A wrist shot from way out on the flank that bounces right to a Rangers’ player. Sometimes it bounces to one of us. Sometimes it bounces to one of them. Things are out of your hands a little bit sometimes. But there’s room for improvement.”

MORE CAPITALS: Rangers hand Caps first regulation loss

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Caps' failed second period power play proves key in loss to Rangers

Caps' failed second period power play proves key in loss to Rangers

On Saturday against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals looked to be in complete control. At the end of the first period, the Caps held a 2-0 lead. The Rangers scored early in the second, but then Mika Zibanejad took a double-minor as he hit T.J. Oshie in the face with a high-stick. In a game in which the Caps had dominated, they had a chance to put the Rangers away.

Then things took a turn.

The Caps failed to score despite having four straight minutes of power play time. The Rangers took the momentum and rattled off two more goals to take a 3-2 lead in the second.

A game in which the Caps were in complete control of had suddenly gotten away from them.

"I think we scored first two goals and I think we felt like it's going to be over," Alex Ovechkin said. "Five-on-four, four minutes I think we have only one chance when [Matt Niskanen] shot a puck and after that we was so casual. We couldn't stay in their zone so obviously it's blame on us and can't paly like that."

RELATED: Ovechkin beats Staal on the deke and Lundqvist on the shot

To make matters worse, this was the second game in a row in which the team struggled in the middle frame.

On Thursday, the Caps took a 2-1 lead into the second period against the Florida Panthers, but were outshot 14-4 in that period and gave up the game-tying goal. Washington again struggled in the second period on Saturday. They gave up only five shots, but it yielded the Rangers three goals.

"They definitely scored on the opportunities they got," Lars Eller said. "They didn't give up."

"They came at us a little bit in the second, but wasn't a lot of shots, wasn't a lot of chances," Trotz said. "But all their chances went in. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Against Florida, there was no single moment that seemed to turn the tide in the Panthers' favor. On Saturday, it was very clear just when the Rangers took over the game.

"They got a little momentum off that power play," Trotz said, "Our own power play they got a little momentum because you get those on your bench, you get a four minute, you want to get something out of it at least and you get right back in the driver's seat if you get one there. They dug in and sort of built a little momentum from that."

The good news is that it is still early in the season. The Caps are only 3-1-1 and will not play many teams that can turn five second-period shots into a complete turnaround.

But the Caps recognized slow starts as a problem from last season and they made a point of correcting it. In five games this season, Washington has scored first in each of their games. Now a similar focus may be needed in order to turn around what is becoming a growing concern in the second period: Weak play in the second period.

"Our first periods have been good, that's something we wanted to correct," Trotz said. "Now our second period, we're going to need to correct that."

MORE CAPITALS: Deflection gives Eller his first goal as a Cap