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Capitals ride early lead to win against Avalanche

by Katie Brown /

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals hadn't scored the first goal of a game in almost a month. Saturday they did, and kept on going.

Justin Williams scored the first of four first-period goals in a 7-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Verizon Center, breaking a nine-game stretch of not having a 1-0 lead.

"That was a focus this morning: Let's get a lead," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We wanted to have a better start. We want this building to be a tough place to play. We want it to [be known] that if you're coming in here, you're in for a battle. That's something we're working on and we talked about."

Forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and defensemen John Carlson, Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov and Karl Alzner scored for Washington (13-5-1).

"We're not used to that," said goaltender Braden Holtby, who made 24 saves. "We play a style that usually has pretty close results based on the way we play. When you get a lead like that, it's a little different, a little uncomfortable for guys, but we stuck with it. After the first [period] there was a few ups and downs, but it's only human in a game like that."

It was the first time four defensemen scored in a game for the Capitals since Dec. 4, 1992, and the first time since March 7, 2013 that the Capitals scored seven goals from seven players, and four goals in the first period.

Forwards Cody McLeod, Nathan MacKinnon and Andreas Martinsen scored for Colorado (7-12-1). Reto Berra made seven saves but was pulled after the first period. Calvin Pickard made 18 saves in relief.

"Obviously, for us to have a chance to beat a team like them, we need to have a perfect night from our goaltender and we need to defend better," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "I didn't think we defended well in the first and, I guess, our goalie was not at his best tonight. It was a tough task for him in some ways, because he played a lot of games lately for us. If we want to have a chance to win against teams like that, we need to be much better with our puck management."

Williams gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 3:05 of the first period, it's first since Oct. 30 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. As a Capitals power play expired, Jason Chimera played the puck behind the net and passed to Williams, who scored on Berra with a one-timer from the slot. The goal was Williams' fifth of the season; he has four points in his past five games.

Ovechkin scored at 7:15 for a 2-0 lead. His 10th goal of the season was a wrist shot from the deep slot off a Nicklas Backstrom pass from the corner boards. The Capitals went up 3-0 at 10:00 with Carlson's fourth goal of the season; he beat Berra short side with a slap shot from the point off a Kuznetsov feed.

Schmidt scored with 43 seconds remaining for a 4-0 lead. He picked up Marcus Johansson's rebound at the top of the left circle and scored his first of the season.

McLeod scored to make it 4-1 at 3:51 of the second period. Washington couldn't clear the zone and McLeod scored on a feed from Blake Comeau for his fourth of the season. MacKinnon scored on a power play at 18:01 of the second to make it 4-2, his ninth of the season. He beat Holtby with a wrist shot from a Gabriel Landeskog feed.

"You know they were going to have a push," Trotz said of Colorado's second-period goals. "It's a proud group over there, and they're well coached with Patrick, they were going to have a push. You just have to make sure you just keep it simple and smart. In the third, I thought we managed it well. We had a killer instinct in the third."

Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 5-2 lead at 6:34 of the third period with his seventh goal of the season. Orlov scored his first goal of the season with 9:53 remaining to make it 6-2.

When Chimera passed to Orlov from behind the net, the puck lodged itself in Orlov's pants, and everyone else on the ice lost sight of it and stopped playing. The puck dropped out and Orlov was able to dance into the slot and score.

It was Orlov's first NHL goal since March 2, 2014; he did not play last season because of a wrist injury.

"A lot of us don't even understand how tough it is to miss a full year of hockey and come back and play in the best league in the world," Holtby said. "[Orlov] cares a lot about what he can bring to the team and how well he can play, and you can tell every game he's making strides in the right direction. I'm sure tonight, getting rewarded for it on the scoresheet will help him even more."

Martinsen scored his first NHL goal at 11:52 of the third to make it 6-3. Alzner made it 7-3 with his goal with 3:36 remaining.

"You want to help the team win when you score a goal," said Martinsen, who played his sixth game. "In a 7-3 game, it doesn't really matter. Now the first one is out of the way, and hopefully there is more coming. I don't have to think about that anymore, I can just keep going. Hopefully, next one can help us win. We just have to get back in Winnipeg (on Monday) and try to get a win."

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