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4-2 home loss to Jets leaves Oates, Capitals 0-2


4-2 home loss to Jets leaves Oates, Capitals 0-2

WASHINGTON (AP) Two games, two losses for Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals and first-time NHL head coach Adam Oates.

Winnipeg's Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler each provided a goal and an assist Tuesday night, and the Jets suddenly transformed into an offensive juggernaut, beating the Capitals 4-2 to drop Washington to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

``At this stage of the year, there's a little confidence issue,'' Oates said. ``We're all second-guessing each other a little bit.''

The Capitals lost their home opener for the first time since 2000, ending a 10-game streak and drawing occasional boos from the red-clad crowd. There's plenty to complain about: The team has been outscored 10-5; opponents are 5 for 12 on power plays; two-time league MVP Ovechkin doesn't have a goal.

``When there was a mistake, it was a big mistake,'' said Washington's Troy Brouwer, who scored a power-play goal with 76 seconds left. ``The grace period is over.''

Not the best way to get started in a lockout-shortened season, where any losing streak's significance is magnified. The quick training camp and lack of preseason games didn't give Oates much time to implement his systems.

``You feel for their situation,'' Jets coach Claude Noel said. ``It's a really tough transition where you don't have a long camp, you don't have exhibition games, which is a huge difference. You can't assess your team correctly. You're doing it on the fly.''

Andrew Ladd and Jim Slater also scored, and Tobias Enstrom had three assists for Winnipeg (1-1-1), which outshot the Capitals 39-34.

The Jets scored only two goals in their first 137 1/2 minutes of play this season. They matched that total with a pair of power-play scores in a 4-minute span during the first period Tuesday while building a 4-1 lead.

``If you play a simple game and everyone buys into it, you can have success,'' said Wheeler, who was on a new line with Kane and Olli Jokinen.

Washington scored first, on Matt Hendricks' goal about 10 minutes into the game, but that lead didn't stand long. Winnipeg tied it about 2 1/2 minutes later when Kane's attempt to center the puck wound up in the net behind goalie Braden Holtby. The puck went in after striking the boot of Capitals defenseman John Carlson at the 12 1/2-minute mark.

Then, with Carlson in the penalty box for delay of game, the Jets went ahead 2-1. This time, with Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom on the penalty-kill, Winnipeg captain Ladd took a one-timer from between the circles that clanged in off the right post with 8 seconds remaining on the advantage.

The Capitals' second game of the season was only 16 1/2 minutes old, yet they already had allowed goals on five of their opponents' first nine power plays. Washington lost at Tampa Bay 6-3 on Saturday.

``Right now, we just have to realize, we have to win a game,'' Ovechkin said. ``We know what we have to do.''

Notes: Winnipeg is the first visitor to beat Washington in a home opener since the Los Angeles Kings won 4-1 on Oct. 6, 2000. Oates assisted on Washington's goal in that game. ... Washington's Hendricks fought Slater at the end of the second period, then Chris Thorburn with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the third. ... Capitals C Mike Ribeiro, who was bleeding from the cheek in the first period and got a bandage on the cut, was given a 10-minute misconduct and 2-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with less than 1 1/2 minutes left in the game. He said he used salty language while trying for a second time to get an explanation from an official why high-sticking wasn't called either of two times he got hit high. ... Capitals D Mike Green played in his 400th career game. ... Ovechkin's 70 points against the Jets franchise - 34 goals and 36 assists in 49 games against Atlanta and Winnipeg - are his most against any NHL club. ... Video messages from more than a half-dozen Capitals players, many thanking the fans, were shown on the scoreboard before the opening faceoff.

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Two Team USA Capitals set to hit earlier than expected

Two Team USA Capitals set to hit earlier than expected

T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen will return to practice on Sunday, which is a day earlier than expected, associate coach Todd Reirden announced Saturday.

John Carlson, however, will rejoin his teammates on Monday as originally planned.  

“The setup we had for them was one travel day and two days off,” Reirden said, referring to the Capitals’ plan for players returning from the World Cup of Hockey. “Those two guys both want skate tomorrow and practice tomorrow. John needs an extra day just to take care of some different stuff.”

Reirden said the three Team USA players won’t participate in Monday’s preseason opener against the Hurricanes or Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens.

“That’s way too soon, as much as I’d love to see them out there,” Reirden said. “We’re going to wait a little bit. …We’ll see as things go from there. Some of it hinges upon some younger players, too, and how they do with the opportunities that are in front of them.”

Team USA’s final World Cup game was on Thursday night. Capitals’ training camp opened on Friday.

“We’re thinking about the start of the season and what gets each of [the World Cup participants] ready for the start of the season,” Reirden said.

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After bouncing around, Brett Connolly aims to find his game with the Capitals

After bouncing around, Brett Connolly aims to find his game with the Capitals

In the six years since Tampa Bay selected Brett Connolly with the sixth overall pick, the big winger’s numbers haven’t matched his draft status.

In fact, he hasn’t put up more than 25 points in a season.

But as he gets going with the Capitals — his third NHL team in two years — Connolly sounds optimistic that this will be the season he turns potential into offensive production.

“I think the style that they play here is going to play well into my hands,” Connolly said Saturday. “That’s kind of my game — skating, shooting, making plays. So far, so good. I like the way they play, their systems and their style. I think it’s a matter of putting it together consistently, and if I can do that, then I can have a good year, open their eyes and help this team win.”

The Capitals hope to tap into the upside Connolly was unable to show in Tampa and Boston. The Bruins did not extend the 24-year-old a qualifying offer this summer after he notched nine goals and 16 assists in 71 games last season. A few days later, Washington signed Connolly to a one-year, $850,000 contract on July 1.

“There were a lot guys this year that didn’t get [qualifying offers],” Connolly said. “I think the market in the league was a little bit deflated this year. It’s all a business. …I thought I was [going to be qualified], but things change. What are you going to do? I was fortunate Washington called right away and I didn’t really have to worry about it too much in the summer. As I said before, it was a no brainer. No matter what the money looks like, it’s the opportunity.”    

Associate coach Todd Reirden sees the deal being beneficial for the player and the team, which needs more offense from its bottom six forwards.

“We feel as an organization that he’s a guy [whose] game is on the rise," Reirden said. "We feel like we’re getting him at a good time. Sometimes players go through some difficult times and struggles and you can get real fortunate as an organization to pick this guy and get a bit of a gem. …Our system of play is designed for a player of his ability.”

Connolly said he hasn’t been told exactly where the coaches see him fitting into the lineup. But the next week is critical for him; with preseason games on Monday and Tuesday and four top-six forwards out due to the World Cup, it’s likely he’ll pick up some of those prime minutes at even strength and on the power play.

“He’s going to get an opportunity to show us what he can do,” Reirden said.  

Said Connolly: “My play is going [to determine] where I’m going to play. Just be a little bit more offensive, I think. They talked about the third line and [needing] the bottom six guys chipping in a little more. I’m a guy who can step into the power play and use my shot and chip in offensively. It’s just a matter of being good defensively.”

Connolly didn’t gloss over the fact that he hasn’t lived up to the hype. But he also made sure to use the word “yet” when asked about it.

“When you’re drafted high, there’s expectations,” he said. “Maybe it hasn’t happened yet. But I’m still very confident in my abilities. There’s been some good times. There’s been some not so good times. It’s just a matter of putting it together.”