WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals are back to their winning ways, and a few new additions from last season are playing a big part.
Matt Hendricks, added after signing a tryout contract during training camp, had the game-winning goal in the third period Friday night and rookie goaltender Braden Holtby made 40 saves as the Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 at Verizon Center.
It was the seventh straight victory for the Capitals -- their longest streak of the season. The Hurricanes squandered a solid performance from goaltender Cam Ward -- and a chance to move into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Washington increased its lead on Boston for second place in the East to three points and are four clear of Tampa Bay for the lead in the Southeast Division.
"I thought we were a little lucky," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I didn't think we were very sharp. They had  shots on goal. I think they were carrying the play -- they were beating us to the puck. We made the plays in the third period that we needed to win and that was it.
"I think [the Hurricanes] are probably pretty frustrated right now."
Hendricks put the Capitals in front with a great shift. He blocked a shot at the end of a Carolina power play, and recent addition Jason Arnott came out of the penalty box to collect the puck and skate in alone on Ward.
The Carolina goaltender made a great stop on Arnott, but Hendricks hustled to reach the rebound first and shoved it in for a 2-1 lead at 7:24 of the third. It was exactly the type of effort the Capitals have come to know and embrace from Hendricks, who was rewarded recently with a two-year contract extension.
"That's what [Hendricks] does," Boudreau said. "He's going to get those dirty goals in the crease. ... I'm happy for him because he works really hard all the time and he deserves some success offensively."
Added Hendricks: "If there was going to be a rebound, I wanted to be the one to get it. I just wanted to try and get it over his pad."
Alex Ovechkin tied the game for Washington 47 seconds into the third period. Marcus Johansson, filling in for the injured Nicklas Backstrom on the top line, left a drop pass for Ovechkin and then cut in front of him -- effectively clearing space for the two-time League MVP to shoot. Ovechkin ripped a wrist shot into the top left corner of the net for his 28th goal of the season. He has 7 goals and 17 points in the past 12 games.
"It was an important goal for us," Ovechkin said. "It was kind of a good shot and it was the end of the shift. I just tried to shoot the puck and go change."
Jay Harrison thought he had tied the game for the Hurricanes late in the third period, but an official had blown his whistle and waived the play off.
"They didn't give me an explanation -- there is no explanation on that call," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "He had his whistle in his mouth before the puck even got close to [Holtby's] glove. It was just a (terrible) call. It's pretty, pretty costly."
Tuomo Ruutu ended more than 39 minutes of scoreless play with his 16th goal of the season to give Carolina the lead late in the second period. Defenseman Bryan Allen wrapped the puck along the boards from behind his net, and it went all the way to Cory Stillman at the far blue line. Stillman sent the puck to Ruutu, who created a 3-on-2 and was able to beat Holtby thanks in part to a screen from Eric Staal with 35.1 seconds left in the second.
Beyond the controversial call, the Hurricanes missed on several chances, including an open net for Staal on a rebound chance in the third. Carolina also went 0-for-5 on the power play and managed only three shots with the man advantage. The Hurricanes are now 3-for-52 on the power play in their last 14 games.
"They had chances, we had chances -- I like the way we played overall," Maurice said. "We put up 40-some odd shots and couldn't find the handle around the net a little bit. We were much more assertive in our game tonight that we have been. We'd like to get a better result."
Ruutu's goal ended a shutout streak of 146:09 for Holtby, who is third on the organization's depth chart in net but is with the big club because of an injury to Semyon Varlamov. Holtby was a fourth-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft and has been developing behind Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
Holtby is now 7-2-2 with a 1.84 goals against average and a .934 save percentage this season for the Capitals. He's been even better in his past six appearances -- Holtby has stopped 173 of 177 shots (a .977 save percentage) and is 5-0-1.
"He's making it tough," Boudreau said. "There are three really good goalies and he obviously doesn't want to leave the net. He's obviously doing a good job."
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