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Khudobin, Hurricanes shut out Capitals

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Anton Khudobin has a theory about why he was so sharp in the Carolina Hurricanes' 3-0 win against the Washington Capitals on Friday at PNC Arena.

His father, Valeri, is visiting from Russia. Most of the time, the former semi-pro defenseman gives his son tips that improve his game. But helping his son get a shutout is another matter. Khudobin found that out after a subpar performance during a call-up with the Minnesota Wild in 2010-11.

"I had one really not-good game," Khudobin explained. "I came back to the hotel and he was on Skype. My mother called first and said, 'Your father wants to talk to you.' So he moved my mother away, and he yelled at me for like 30 seconds. I understood him, and then he said, 'I'm done.' And he was gone.

"The next game I got my first shutout."

Valeri Khudobin won't have to raise his voice after his son made 28 saves, including a handful of quality stops in the third period, for his first shutout of the season and fourth in his career.

Brett Bellemore, Jeff Skinner and Nathan Gerbe scored form the Hurricanes (23-30-7), who have won two straight.

Washington (33-20-10) lost its third in a row. Braden Holtby made 35 saves.

Bellemore scored his first of the season at 17:21 of the first period. His wrist shot from above the right circle slipped past Holtby, who didn't appear to see it. Victor Rask and Andrej Nestrasil had the assists on Bellemore's third goal in 105 NHL games.

"I kind of faked one way and [Holtby] kind of bit a little bit," Bellemore said. "But when you fake, you're a little off balance so I just tried to get it through. There was a good screen by Nestrasil and it had eyes for me."

The Capitals were outshot 9-4 in the first period but had a couple of prime scoring chances. Alex Ovechkin hit the right post from the slot early in the period, and Jason Chimera cut through the slot and hit the outside of the post after pulling Khudobin out of position. But Washington's offense was undermined by a pair of first-period penalties.

"We showed glimpses the first couple minutes, then we took a penalty and after that, we didn't seem to get it back for the rest of the first," Holtby said. "We were a bit of a step behind tonight."

Jeff Skinner scored his 16th of the season to push the lead to 2-0 midway through the second period when he slipped away from defenders between the circles, took a pass from Nestrasil and beat Holtby low to the far post at 10:15. The goal was Skinner's sixth in eight games.

"It's been fun," Skinner said about his recent hot streak. "(Riley) Nash has been playing real well down the middle and tonight (Elias) Lindholm made a great pass to me. As a line, we were going pretty well and we were solid in our own end."

Khudobin took over from there. In the third, he stopped Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin in quick succession on rebound attempts, then turned away Brooks Laich's shot through traffic. One of his best stops came with 2:20 remaining and an extra attacker on for the Capitals: Troy Brouwer knocked down Mike Green's shot on the way to the net, but Khudobin smothered the bouncing puck.

Gerbe scored into an empty net with 11 seconds remaining for the final margin.

"I thought we played good," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "But 5-on-5 we had a lot of jump and in the first period, we had the puck a lot off faceoffs. In this League, when you get the lead and can extend the lead, you're in good shape."

While the Capitals remain comfortably in the first wild-card position in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the three-game losing skid is cause for concern.

"We really need to get going again," Backstrom said. "There's only 19 games left and we need a little push here. Tonight was not good at all. When we had a good run there in December, we were shooting a lot more and creating a lot more traffic in front of the net. We've got to get back to that."

Washington has been plagued by slow starts recently, leaving coach Barry Trotz wondering how to remedy the issue.

"There should be no excuse at all for being tired. We've had a pretty light schedule in the last three or four days," Trotz said. "So I don't have any answers right now that I could give you other than it's got to come from within."

Carolina visits the New York Islanders on Saturday. Washington hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.

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