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Gonchar scores winner for Senators against Caps

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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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Stock watch: Bowey scores pivotal goal, Barber tries to shake off poor start

Stock watch: Bowey scores pivotal goal, Barber tries to shake off poor start

The Caps fell to Carolina in their preseason opener 2-1 in overtime. More important than the score, however, was the performance of the players who are all vying to impress the coaches. Here are three players who impressed and three players who had a rough start.

3 players who impressed:

Vitek Vanecek: In his first taste of NHL experience, Vanecek was impressive in net. He played about half the game allowing only one goal on 13 shots.

Vanecek has been largely overshadowed after the Caps drafted goalie Ilya Samsonov in the first round of the 2015 draft, but he showed tonight why he continues to climb the ranks in the organization.

Vanecek fought off several screens and was quick to flash the pads for key kick saves. The only goal he allowed was a rolling puck high on the glove side which would have been a tough save for any netminder.

“I was extremely happy with our goaltending,” associate coach Todd Reirden said. “I thought Vitek did a great job with his first game.”

Nathan Walker: At just 5-foot-8, 179 pounds, Walker is not the most physically imposing player on the ice, but that didn’t stop him from playing an extremely physical game against Carolina.

“[Walker] added a lot of life, definitely frustrated some of the opposition,” Reirden said. “He's a guy that brings a ton of speed and energy and I thought he had a real strong game for us.”

Walker finished with a game-high six hits.

If his size was a concern for the Caps coming into this season, he showed that he won’t be intimidated by the bigger players of the NHL.

“I've played like that my whole life,” Walker said. “I'm not going to stop now just because the guys are a little bigger here.”

Madison Bowey: With the Caps trailing 1-0 in the third period, Bowey was able to pull the game even and force overtime with a one-timer on the power play to beat Carolina goalie Alex Nedeljkovic.

“I just let the play develop with Lars Eller,” Bowey said. “Whenever he's on the ice he makes a lot of room for other guys and he made a great pass to Paul Carey and he found me which just made it pretty easy for me to kind of shoot and put it in.”

Bowey has shown good offensive instincts in Hershey and pinched up at the perfect time to get the pass from Carey and fire the one-timer.

Prior to that point, the game felt uneventful for Bowey, which is usually a good thing for a defenseman.

“Every time you can contribute offensively it goes a long way,” Bowey said, “But I think really my role, if I want to make this team, is just making sure I can play simple and solid every game. I was really happy with my defensive play tonight.”

RELATED: Wilson pulled form preseason opener for precautionary reasons

3 players who need to show improvement:

Riley Barber: The first period was not kind to Barber as he took not one, but two minor penalties before the game was even nine minutes old. Barber was called for hooking just 3:29 into the game as he lost a pass in the offensive zone and brought down Jordan Staal in the neutral zone on the back check.

Just five minutes later, Barber was called for tripping Jaccob Slavin behind Carolina’s net for an offensive zone penalty. Barber came in on the forecheck to pressure Slavin and was too aggressive with the sweep check as the Carolina defenseman tripped over his stick.

“It's something I addressed after the game,” Reirden said, “Because in the beginning of the year, every NHL season, the referees always call way more penalties on stick infractions.”

Reirden also noted, however, that he was pleased with how Barber rebounded from the rough start.

“I liked the way his game came around. A lot of times you'll find with young players if they have some difficulties in the beginning of the game, then there game continues to head south and his game turned around.”

Brooks Orpik: Orpik will enter the season trying to erase the memory of last season’s rough playoff performance and Monday was not a good start. Carolina was able to turn a bad turnover from the veteran defenseman into a goal late in the first period that proved to be the only goal the Caps would concede in regulation.

Orpik was skating with the puck in the defensive zone and missed on a pass to Jay Beagle who was standing near the boards. The puck went behind Beagle and bounced off the boards to Slavin who passed it up to Bryan Bickell to start the rush. Patrick Brown would finish off the play with a top-shelf goal.

One lone Carolina player was weakly forechecking Orpik, but he should have been able to handle that pressure. A veteran defenseman of his caliber should be able to pass to a stationary player in the face of a single forechecker. That’s not a play that should result in a turnover.

Jakub Vrana: There's no denying Vrana's talent, that was evident on Monday even if he came up empty on the box score. The problem, however, is that Vrana brought an AHL mindset to an NHL game. He relied far too much on his speed, attempting to simply skate around defensemen who were able to easily stay with him and force him out of the play.

In the AHL, Vrana is able to dominate with his speed and skill. Monday showed that's not enough to be successful in the NHL where the players are just as fast and just as skilled.

Vrana managed only one shot and had another blocked. It was not a terrible performance, but a clear indication that he needs more development before he is NHL ready. He needs to learn how to play against more skilled defensemen if he hopes to make an impact with the Caps.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps drop preseason opener in overtime, 2-1

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Capitals' Wilson pulled from Monday's game for precautionary reasons

Capitals' Wilson pulled from Monday's game for precautionary reasons

Capitals winger Tom Wilson left Monday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes with an upper body injury, associate coach Todd Reirden said.

Reirden said the decision to pull Wilson late in the second period was for precautionary reasons.

“He was getting evaluated tonight and will be reevaluated tomorrow morning and see where he’s at,” Reirden said.

RELATED: Caps drop preseason opener in overtime, 2-1

Wilson was hurt when he tangled with Jordan Staal in the corner. Staal’s shoulder/upper arm caught Wilson in the mouth area. The Carolina center was whistled for elbowing.

Wilson and Staal had been jawing at one another for much of the game leading up to the hit. Wilson finished with a shot, four hits, a blocked shot and a giveaway in 11:45 of ice time.

“It was just kind of a normal hockey play,” Reirden said. “And we’ll how he is tomorrow, but at this point in the season it gives us a chance to be precautionary on that.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps remain cautious with defenseman Nate Schmidt