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Caps make it three in a row

by Brian Compton
After a 2-1 victory against the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, Michael Nylander and the Washington Capitals can now celebrate their first 3-0-0 start since the 2002-03 season.
Viktor Kozlov made his return to Nassau Coliseum a memorable one.

The big center erased a 1-0 deficit with his second goal of the season in the second period and Brooks Laich potted the game-winner at the 7:58 mark of the third as the Washington Capitals – despite registering only 12 shots on goal -- handed the New York Islanders their first loss with a 2-1 victory on Monday afternoon in front of another capacity crowd on Long Island.
The Capitals improved to 3-0-0 with the win, marking the first time they’ve accomplished the feat since the 2002-03 campaign. Washington will look to tie a franchise record with its fourth straight win to start a season at Madison Square Garden on Friday night against the New York Rangers. The Caps have gotten off to 4-0 starts twice before in their history (1991, 1997).
Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig continued his mastery of the Islanders in a 30-save effort. Kolzig improved to 26-9-2 lifetime against New York. He’s experienced more success against the Long Island franchise than any other in the National Hockey League.
“We’re going into games expecting to win, where last year we’d go into games saying, ‘Let’s work hard and see what happens,’” Kolzig said. “It’s a totally different mindset. We’ve put pressure on ourselves, but it’s pressure that’s in a good way.”
While the Isles dominated in the shots department (31-12, including a 17-3 margin in the second period), coach Ted Nolan wasn’t exactly dazzled by his team’s performance, especially in its own zone.
“Sometimes the shots aren’t indicative of the play,” Nolan said. “We really only had five or six good chances. The effort was there, but we had a couple of costly turnovers that went in.”
After Richard Park gave the Isles a 1-0 lead 6:30 into the game, Kozlov scored against his former team at the 7:58 mark of the second period. With the teams at even strength, Kozlov took a pass from Alex Ovechkin and fired a slap shot that beat Isles goalie Rick DiPietro to the glove side. After scoring a career-high 25 goals on Long Island last season, Kozlov is off to a quick start in Washington, registering at least a point in each of the team’s first three contests.
Brooks Laich potted the game-winner in the third period for the Caps following a turnover in the defensive zone by Mike Comrie, who failed to score after recording four goals in the Isles’ first two games. After Michael Nylander stole Comrie’s clearing attempt, he set up Caps defenseman Brian Pothier for a shot at the blue line. DiPietro was able to make the save, but Laich was there to collect the rebound and swatted it home with 12:02 remaining.
It was Laich’s first goal since Feb. 27 – a span of 21 games.
“I know my role is to be a dependable forward,” Laich said.
The Islanders went 0-for-4 on the power play, which included a two-man advantage in the second period that lasted 94 seconds. The power play should get a boost on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers, should the Isles sign defenseman Bryan Berard as expected.
“We have to take better shots on the power play, and not just shoot to shoot,” Isles captain Bill Guerin said. “We have to keep it simple, get pucks to the net and play off rebounds.”
Prior to the game, the Islanders learned that defenseman Freddy Meyer had been claimed off waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes, which should clear the way for the Berard signing.
Senators 4, Devils 2 – It looks as if Ray Emery will have all the time he needs to fully recover from offseason wrist surgery.
Martin Gerber made 27 saves for his fourth straight win as Ottawa knocked off New Jersey at Scotiabank Place in the first meeting between the teams since the Senators eliminated the Devils from the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Gerber, who appeared in only 29 games for the Sens last season, stopped 10 of 11 shots in the third period to secure the victory.
“We’ve had more consistency this year,” Gerber said.
Ottawa improved to 3-0-0 on home ice and is already five points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in the Northeast Division. The Senators dropped their first four games on home ice last season and nine of their first 15. Things have been quite different this time around.
Martin Gerber stopped 27 shots for his fourth straight win as the Senators doubled up the Devils 4-2 at Scotiabank Place.
Leading the way for Ottawa was Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, who each had three points. Wade Redden’s power play goal at the 5:33 mark of the third period gave the Senators a 3-1 lead, once a video replay ruled that the puck had crossed the goal line before being cleared away by Devils defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski.
“We struggled (at home) early last year and then we turned it around,” Alfredsson said. “It’s always a work in progress. You always try to tweak some things and I’m sure the coaches will come up with things we can do a lot better, but right now we’re feeling pretty good.”
New Jersey’s Zach Parise made it a 3-2 game 7:29 into the third, following another video review. The former University of North Dakota star let go a shot that slid along and across the goal line, but play continued for another 10 seconds due to a clearing effort by Ottawa’s Andrej Meszaros.
Dany Heatley and Chris Kelly scored first-period goals to help Ottawa jump out to a 2-0 lead. Arron Asham tallied his first goal as a Devil at the 18:17 mark of the second period to cut the deficit in half, but New Jersey couldn’t get the equalizer before Redden helped the Sens regain their two-goal cushion. Martin Brodeur finished with 33 saves for the Devils.
Ottawa is off to a 4-0-0 start for the second time in three years. The Devils, meanwhile, have six games remaining on their nine-game road trip. They will visit the Florida Panthers for the second time this season on Thursday night.
 “To win in this League -- to win in any league – you’ve got to play well for 60 minutes and it’s two games in a row where we haven't had a good first period, and three games in a row where we’ve got one period where we haven’t played well because we’re not doing what we need to do to be successful,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said.
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