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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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Who's hot and who's not: Ice cold special teams mask good starts from Ovechkin, Sanford

Who's hot and who's not: Ice cold special teams mask good starts from Ovechkin, Sanford

Once a week this season, we’re going to take a closer look at the numbers and point out a trends that every Capital fan should know about.  


Alex Ovechkin

By his own admission, the Capitals’ captain hasn’t been perfect. But he’s doing something no one else has managed: he’s scoring consistently. In fact, Ovechkin has tallied in four consecutive contests after going pointless in the first two. It’s Ovi’s longest goal streak since Feb. 7-13 of last season (also four games).    

Zach Sanford

The rookie is still looking for his first goal. But he’s been dangerous around the next in each of the Capitals’ last two games. The Oilers' Cam Talbot absolutely robbed Sanford with a splendid pad save midway through the second period on Wednesday. Hunch here is that he’ll get one sooner rather than later.

Blue line point production

The Capitals’ offensive punch (or lack thereof) has been a storyline through the first six games. In fact, they have mustered only 14 goals, which is tied for 26th entering Thursday’s games. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but this much is also clear: the defensemen are doing more than their fair share. All six of them have recorded at least one assist, and Matt Niskanen has a team-leading four helpers after picking up the primary on Ovi’s goal Wednesday night.



Power play

A top-five unit a year ago, the Capitals’ power play has fallen on hard times so far this season. In fact, it’s all the way down in 28th, having connected on just two of 19 opportunities. The two goals, by the way, came against a tired Avalanche team. The unit has gone 0 for 6 since.

Penalty kill

This was a top-two unit a year ago, and it’s now scuffling (statistically, at least) as much as the power play. It’s given up a goal in five of the first six games, including one in Edmonton, and is burried in 25th place (72.2-percent). Coach Barry Trotz pointed out Wednesday night that it’s a small sample size, but he also noted that the unit can do a better job of blocking shots, filling lanes and coming up with critical saves at big moments.

Tom Wilson

The fourth liner is the only Capital who’s suited up for all six games but is still looking for his first point. Sanford and Brett Connolly also have goose eggs, but they’ve played in four and two games, respectively. It’s time for Wilson to get on the board.


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Prospect report: Two Caps prospects earn invites to international tournaments

Prospect report: Two Caps prospects earn invites to international tournaments

Hershey update: 1-2-2-0, 6th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-0-2-0

The Hershey Bears earned their first win of the season and took points from all three of their games this week. Defenseman Colby Williams also registered his first career professional point with an assist in Hershey’s win over Bridgeport on Saturday.

Defenseman Madison Bowey continues to standout on both ends of the ice with a goal and an assist, but there remain aspects of his game in which he needs to improve.

Check out Bowey’s highlights from the team’s loss to Hartford on Wednesday:

Though he may not have registered any points, Bowey’s stickhandling talent is on full display. He also made a great play defensively as he swept a puck off the goal line behind Joe Cannata in the first period.

What you can also see, however, is that Bowey is prone to making some horrible turnovers. This can happen when players in the minors get overconfident. There’s no question whether Bowey will make it to the NHL, the only question is when. He’s clearly one of the most talented players on the roster in Hershey. Sometimes, players can reach a point in their development in which they become overconfident in their talent and it leads to sloppy mistakes.

Speaking of which, forward Jakub Vrana was a surprise healthy scratch for Hershey’s game Sunday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Vrana had a disappointing preseason with the Caps and showed that he needed to work on his puck distribution. He has two goals already this season, but his development bears watching.

Goalie Vitek Vanecek appears to be adjusting well to the AHL game. On Sunday in only his third career AHL start, Vanecek turned aside 33 of the 35 shots he faced. The only goals came on a deflection and on a penalty shot in overtime. You can see his highlights from the game here:

This game also featured Nathan Walker’s first goal of the season. The young Aussie plays a very physical style which, given his size, would make you believe he has very little chance of ever making the NHL. Yet, he showed he could go toe-to-toe with NHL players in the preseason and goals like the one he scored Sunday provide further proof that he will not get pushed around should the Caps ever have need of his services.

For an inside look at what it’s like to play for Hershey, check out this piece on Chocolate Hockey written by Caps prospect and Bears captain Garrett Mitchell.


Other prospect notes:

Goalie Ilya Samsonov has had an impressive start to the season in the KHL registering a 2.26 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. His performance has earned him a spot on Team Russia’s roster as announced Wednesday for the U20 Four-Nation Tournament held in Gothenburg, Sweden. The tournament will take place Nov. 4-6.

Another Caps prospect will participate in an international tournament as defenseman Connor Hobbs will play for Team WHL in the CIBC Canada Russia Series.

The Canada Russia Series is an annual tournament in which Russian junior players play teams composed of players from each of the three junior leagues of the Canadian Hockey League (WHL, OHL and QMJHL). The series will consist of six games with each Canadian league playing two games. Team WHL will play on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8.

Adam Carlson played in his first professional game on Tuesday as he started for the South Carolina Stingrays in a game against the Wichita Thunder. The Stingrays lost, but Carlson played well with 26 saves on 28 shots (the third goal was an empty-netter).

North Dakota is ranked No. 1 among college teams in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine college hockey poll and Caps prospect Shane Gersich is a major reason why. In their two wins this week, Gersich scored one goal and three assists.

Check out the highlights from North Dakota’s win over Bemidji State on Saturday in which Gersich registered three points.

Chase Priskie of Quinnipiac was the recipient of a dangerous hit last week that left him bleeding from a gash in his forehead. He did not play in either of his team’s games last week and his status still remains unclear.