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Capitals blank struggling Sabres 2-0

by John Kreiser /

Alex Ovechkin usually does a great job picking up his teammates. On Wednesday night, they returned the favor.

Ovechkin scored a first-period goal to give Washington a 1-0 lead over Buffalo -- but gave the Sabres a five-minute power play 3:38 into the third when he drew a major penalty and a game misconduct for running Patrick Kaleta into the boards.

But the Caps, who've struggled to hold leads in the third period, killed the penalty and added an insurance goal by Eric Fehr for a 2-0 victory over the struggling Sabres.

"You lose the most prolific scorer on the planet Earth, which is tough," said Washington defensemanBrian Pothier. "But you have to kill a five-minute penalty. As Ovi's skating off the ice, we're telling him, 'We've got this one for you.' He does so much for our team. Every night, he bails us out. We could sure do it for him."

Semyon Varlamov stopped 25 shots for his first regular-season shutout. He wasn't tested severely until Ovechkin was ejected for the second time in his career. Both have come against Buffalo at Verizon Center; the other was Dec. 2, 2006, when he checked Daniel Briere from behind.

"I just go take a hit and (Kaleta) just fell into the boards. ... Max, it's got to be 2 minutes," Ovechkin said.

Varlamov has been making rookie mistakes in previous games, but Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he sensed a change in his 21-year-old goalie.

"Varly was solid," Boudreau said. "It was like he was saying, 'I'm not going to let this happen to me again in the third period.'"

Varlamov, who had a pair of shutouts against the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs last spring, was quick to credit his teammates.

"The defense played great, as well as our forwards," Varlamov said through a translator. "Toward the end of the game, we just held back. We needed to."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was disappointed that his team did nothing with the long power play.

"We didn't get organized. We got set up once ... and made a couple of bad passes," Ruff said. "And the couple of bad passes led to no zone time."

Buffalo has lost four straight.

"As a team, we're having a tough time finding the back of the net," said Buffalo'sJason Pominville. "That's when you have to dig deeper and get those ugly goals and just outwork them around the crease. I just don't think we're doing a good enough job at it so far."

With six players from their opening-night lineup missing due to injury, the Capitals came up with a strong start-to-finish effort after losing leads in their last two games, both overtime losses.

Ovechkin's team-high 17th goal opened the scoring 6:24 into the game. He made an end-to-end dash, used rookie defenseman Tyler Myers as a screen and beat Ryan Miller on a wrister from the right circle for his third goal in five games after missing six because of an upper-body strain.

Fehr gave them some breathing room with 6:22 left in regulation, banging home Brendan Morrison's passout.

Varlamov did the rest.

"He's feeling more comfortable," Ovechkin said of his fellow Russian. "He deserved (the shutout)."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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