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Ovechkin looks sharp in return

by Brian Compton / NHL.com
A few thoughts while Joey MacDonald signs a 15-year contract:

A.O. is back — The Washington Capitals didn't win in Alex Ovechkin's return to the ice, but No. 8 certainly had his share of chances in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

Ovechkin, who missed the past 2 games to be with his ailing grandfather in Russia, did not register a point but fired 4 shots on goal in the loss. Overall, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was pleased with his superstar's performance.

''I thought early on he had lots of good little opportunities,'' Boudreau said. ''At the end of the game, maybe his wind was — I don't know, he didn't have as many chances. I thought it was closer checking, even though their shot total was much greater than ours.''

Ovechkin's play was a bright spot in an otherwise shaky performance by Washington, which allowed 44 shots on goal. If not for the play of goaltender Brent Johnson, the score likely would have been much worse.

Hammer it home — Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was not a happy camper after his team's 5-4 overtime loss to Carolina — and rightfully so.

He was steaming due to his team's slow start out of the gate, as the Leafs were in a 3-0 hole against the Carolina Hurricanes just 8:53 into their game at Air Canada Centre. For Wilson, that's just unacceptable — on home ice, or anywhere else.

''We've got to hammer it home,'' said Wilson, whose team fought back and got a point for the OT loss. ''We've changed our focus a little bit — we thought we had (defense) in the can and have gone more into the attack mode, more shots and focused on offense. We just have to hammer (defense) home.''

Leafs defenseman Jeff Finger agreed.

''We dug ourselves a hole in the first (period) and it was too big to get out of almost,'' said Finger. ''We salvaged a point but I think everybody agrees that that's not good enough in the first. It pretty much cost us 2 points.''

So long, slump — It had been a frustrating first 10 games for Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski, but the big blueliner busted out of his slump Tuesday night.

Jovanovski's first goal — and point — of the season broke a 2-2 tie, as the Coyotes never looked back in a 4-2 win against the Calgary Flames at Pengrowth Saddledome.
 
''Any time you go through a stretch like that where you can't get anything, it weighs on you and it's frustrating,'' Jovanovski said. ''It's nice to get back on the board. I, personally, have always been a guy that likes to contribute offensively and hopefully this is the start of something good for me."

Jovanovski admitted he felt a jump in his step following the tally. On a team as young as Phoenix is, the Coyotes will need production from their top defenseman as they aim for a Western Conference playoff spot.

''Even after I scored that goal, I felt better as a player instantly,'' Jovanovski said. ''I felt confident, I felt my feet moving a lot better, I was in the play more, I was more physical.''

From backup to backbone — With Rick DiPietro set in stone as the New York Islanders' starting goaltender until basically the end of time, Joey MacDonald entered the 2008-09 season expecting to see as much playing time in New York as Stephon Marbury.

But with DiPietro out with a knee injury until at least December, MacDonald has been pushed to the forefront. On Tuesday night, he appeared both excited — and capable — of
the challenge in front of him.

MacDonald blanked the New York Rangers for 58:19 and finished with 35 saves as the Isles earned a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden.

 
 


More important: The Islanders didn't blow a lead for the first time in 3 games. After surrendering a 4-1 lead in the third period Saturday night to the Montreal Canadiens in a 5-4 loss, the Isles gave up a 3-0 lead in the third Monday, but escaped Nassau Coliseum with a 4-3 overtime win against Columbus.

Things were different at the Garden. Even though they were outshot 36-19, the Islanders committed themselves to coach Scott Gordon's system and hung on for their second straight win. They'll go for No. 3 Thursday at Atlanta.

"This was a huge win after the stretch we had," MacDonald said. "We just weren't getting the bounces the past few games. Tonight we were out-shot by a lot but we stuck to our game plan and capitalized on our chances. I'd rather be at my end than have only 4 or 5 shots a period. They put some pressure on us in the second period, but our defense had some big blocks."

All's Wellwood — Less than 3 weeks ago, Kyle Wellwood was well on his way to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

That wakeup call could have been just what the doctor ordered for the Vancouver Canucks' forward, who never reached hockey's Triple-A level because of a rib injury to Pavol Demitra.

Wellwood cleared waivers. Twenty-nine teams could have had him, but instead said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

That may have lit a fire under him.

Wellwood scored his fifth and sixth goals Tuesday night since his demotion, leading the Canucks to a 4-0 win against the Nashville Predators at GM Place. The hope now is that he's received his last demotion.

''There's lots of personal goals you have and playing in the NHL is the main one and that's my focus,'' Wellwood said. ''I'm going to keep competing for a job here.''

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't go as far as to say that Wellwood got the message loud and clear 2 weeks ago. The only certainty these days is that he's been a huge asset for the Canucks.

''All the NHL teams had a grab at him going down and coming up and nobody did,'' said Vigneault. ''I don't know if that was a wake-up call for him or not. All I know is he's really grabbed this opportunity and he's helping us win games.''
   
Howe sweet it is — There's little doubt that Ryane Clowe won't soon forget what he was able to accomplish Tuesday night.

The San Jose Sharks forward notched a "Gordie Howe hat trick," as he picked up a goal, an assist and a fighting major in a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild at HP Pavilion. Clowe's contributions helped San Jose improve to 7-0-0 on home ice.

''It was a work day for me,'' said Clowe, who tangled with Minnesota defenseman Erik Reitz in the third period. ''When you're on and off, you never know when your next shift is going to be. It seemed like we were playing too much in the neutral zone, but when we got down low, we were effective.''

Thanks, Erik — The Los Angeles Kings didn't come away with a victory against their top rival, the Anaheim Ducks. But the Kings' goaltending hardly was to blame.

Making his first start of the season, Erik Ersberg was outstanding, as the 26-year-old made 26 saves in a 1-0 overtime loss at the Staples Center. L.A.'s lack of offense extended the Kings' winless streak to 5 games (0-3-2). Afterward, Ersberg's teammates had nothing but praise for the back-up netminder.

"There wasn't much he could do," defenseman Matt Greene said, referring to Chris Pronger's OT winner. "He played unbelievable. I just want to say thanks for keeping us in it."

After watching his club go 0-for-6 on the power play, Kings coach Terry Murray realizes it's time to go back to the drawing board.

"We had chances, and they had an opportunity with 1 shot — and that made the difference," Murray said. "We have to find a way to do something on the power play."


Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.

Material from wire services was used in this report.  
 












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