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Down 3-0, Capitals rally to win in shootout

by Adam Vingan /

WASHINGTON -- As the Washington Capitals ascended into the NHL's elite during the past six seasons, they made their reputation with a lethal power play and a penchant for comebacks.

Even though the Capitals have established themselves as a perennial Stanley Cup Playoff team, the showed Thursday they haven't forgotten their roots.

Down 3-0 after one period against the Calgary Flames, Washington erased that lead with power-play goals from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the team's fourth and fifth through two games, and the Capitals rallied to earn their first win of the season, 5-4 in a shootout.

"We've done it a lot before, come back like that," veteran Brooks Laich said. "We've got potent offensive guys that can do it, so the game is never over."

In their home opener, the Capitals dictated the pace early, but it was the Flames who scored three first-period goals.

David Jones caught defenseman Jack Hillen flat-footed along the blue line and drove past him before snapping a short-side top-shelf shot over Braden Holtby's left shoulder at 5:18.

Lee Stempniak extended Calgary's lead to 2-0 just under five minutes later when he corralled a Mark Giordano rebound in front and slid it past Holtby. With the Flames on the power play, Jiri Hudler gave them a three-goal lead at 16:22 with a shot from the right point.

It was the 11th and final shot Holtby faced. Michal Neuvirth came on in relief.

Holtby has allowed eight goals on 45 shots through two starts this season, but coach Adam Oates did not place any blame on the 24-year-old, already informing him he will start Washington's next game, Saturday against the Dallas Stars.

"Everybody has hiccups. Everybody," Oates said. "And he's got to understand that to me that's what it is."

Washington inched closer in a back-and-forth second period. Rookie defenseman Connor Carrick, just released from the penalty box after serving a hooking call, received a pass from Marcus Johansson and broke in alone on Karri Ramo, making his first NHL start in more than three years. Carrick deked to his backhand and beat Ramo on his forehand for his first NHL goal and a 3-1 score.

"Momentum's a big part of the NHL," Carrick said. "You hear a lot of coaches mention it throughout the League, so anything I can do to swing the momentum our way."

Lance Bouma restored the Flames' three-goal lead less than two minutes later. Neuvirth misplayed the puck behind the net, and Brian McGrattan was able to send a pass to Bouma in the slot before Neuvirth could intervene.

Washington responded on the power play at 11:24 when Ovechkin one-timed a pass from Mike Green past Ramo from his usual spot on the left faceoff dot for his second goal of the season. Ovechkin scored his second of the night at 15:25 on a slap shot on a set play off a faceoff from Johansson and Backstrom.

Two successful penalty kills early in the third period, including a 47-second two-man advantage, kept the Capitals within striking distance, and when they finally got their chances on the power play, they took advantage with Backstrom's game-tying goal at 14:10. Mikhail Grabovski was able to fish the puck out of a scramble in the slot and thread a pass to Backstrom.

"First of all, I think Grabovski did a good job taking the puck in the zone and then he gave it down in the corner to me and then just threw it up to Ovi," Backstrom said. "I think Ovi wanted to give it back to me, but the D blocked it there. A little scramble in front of the net, and he gave me the puck and I just tried to hit the net and I scored."

Grabovski and Ovechkin scored in the shootout. Neuvirth stymied Sven Baertschi and Hudler.

The Capitals lost Hillen to an apparent right-leg injury midway through the first period when he awkwardly absorbed a check along the boards from Bouma.

Oates said after the game Hillen was at a hospital and will be "out for a bit."

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