New first line is tops as Caps get back in win column
Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 5:17 AM
THREE STAR SELECTIONS
1st Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
| PTS: 2
| SOG: 13
2nd Mike Knuble
Right Wing - WSH
| PTS: 2
| SOG: 3
3rd Alexander Semin
Right Wing - DET
| PTS: 1
| SOG: 6
-- Mike Knuble
joked before Thursday's game that writing too much about the Washington Capitals
' re-jiggered top-two lines would be an ill-advised exercise.
"Check with me tomorrow," the Caps' right winger told NHL.com at 5 o'clock. "It changes daily."
Five hours later, coach Bruce Boudreau's changes looked pretty good. Alex Ovechkin
, Knuble's new linemate, scored twice in 28 seconds in the second period as the Capitals beat San Jose 4-1 to end a four-game losing streak.
The line of Ovechkin and Knuble between Brendan Morrison took command in the second period, Knuble and Morrison assisted on both goals, and for the night, the trio finished plus-6.
"I like the combination. I like what the three of us bring," Knuble said after the game. "We bring different parts of the game and we can all complement each other. At the same time, it's only one game, one outing, and we have to keep doing it consistently. But, it makes you hungrier to do it the next game."
The Capitals had lost 11 straight to San Jose since February 1999. They finally solved Evgeni Nabokov, who came into the game 8-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average against the Caps before taking the loss.
''Nabby was fine. I can't blame him on any goals,'' Sharks coach Todd McLellan said
Ovechkin, who hadn't scored in three games since getting two in the Caps' overtime loss in Philadelphia on Oct. 6, also liked the way the line looked. However, he noted that his job doesn't change no matter who he plays with.
"It's different, yeah, but we continue to work and everybody understands right now it doesn't matter who you play with," Ovechkin said. "You have to work hard and try to win the games."
Knuble had the primary assists on each of Ovechkin's goals. He gave a backhanded saucer pass to the streaking Russian for a one-timer from the slot 2:55 into the second for a 2-1 lead, then fired a shot from the right circle that was kicked out by Nabokov, but Ovechkin beat Jed Ortmeyer to the net and slammed home the rebound at 3:23.
Morrison had the secondary assist on both goals -- the first ever by Ovechkin against the Sharks, the only team he had never scored against.
"They went to the net and they shot the puck," Boudreau said about the line he created in Tuesday's practice. "They scored two goals, but I thought all the lines were really good tonight."
They were, which also bodes well for some stability in the lines for Saturday's game. So does the production from the Caps' other reconfigured scoring line.
had a strong game, complete with a 5-on-3 goal in the first period and six total shots. He was the right wing on the other scoring line that had Nicklas Backstrom
in the middle and Brooks Laich
on the left.
"When (Semin) and Alex (Ovechkin) are on different lines and they're both playing well it makes it very difficult for other teams," Boudreau said.
Washington was again sharp defensively, yielding only 15 shots over the final 40 minutes after giving up 13 in the first 20. The Caps have given up only six goals over the last three games after allowing 15 through the first four.
"We can't remember any major turnovers in the middle, which is really good news," Boudreau said. "When we play with no turnovers and play the way we're all capable of playing you get 35-plus shots on goal against a really good hockey club."
Boudreau even liked the power play, which scored just once on five chances in the first period and is now just three for its last 22. The Caps put eight shots on Nabokov over their five power plays, but won only three of 14 faceoffs.
"We were in there for zone time, which was great," Boudreau said. "Despite the fact that we lost some key faceoffs to allow them to ice it and kill 20 seconds a couple of times, I thought the puck movement and the shots, the ones that could have gone in and the tips that didn't go in…I thought we did a really good job on the power play."
Fourth-liner Matt Bradley scored the fourth goal, giving the Caps some much-needed production out of their bottom six. And, to top it off, rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov, thrust into action after the first intermission due to back spasms that plagued starter Jose Theodore, was perfect against 15 shots.
Varlamov gave up eight goals on 56 shots against Toronto and Philadelphia and hadn't played since Oct. 6. Theodore made 12 saves in the first period.
"As a script goes, with Varly having his struggles the two previous games, to come in and shut down a team like this, that must do a lot for his confidence I would believe," Boudreau said.
Meanwhile, the Sharks are still trying to find their game.
They are 3-3-1, and despite all the offensive firepower they possess, they have just one goal in their last two games -- third-line rookie wing Benn Ferriero
scored late in the first period.
San Jose was blanked in a 1-0 shootout loss to Phoenix on Monday.
"We weren't in the game from the start," captain Rob Blake said. "We had five minors in the first, shorthanded for 10 minutes. Second period, they score two goals in a minute. Third period, when we should be the desperate team, we're on our heels. We can't even get into the offensive zone on our power play. All around, it was a terrible effort."
-- Dan Rosen, NHL.com