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Shorthanded Caps blank Habs

by Brian Hunter /

Bruce Boudreau's 50th NHL coaching victory. Jose Theodore's first shutout with his new team. Yet another victory for the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.

Fans certainly got their money's worth Friday night as Alex Ovechkin was one of three Caps to score in a 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens that extended their home win streak to seven games, longest for the franchise since the 2000-01 season. The Capitals are 9-0-1 overall at home this season and 15-0-1 dating back to March 9.

Theodore made 28 saves in blanking the team he broke into the League with, and Washington also got goals from Tomas Fleischmann and David Steckel in snapping a three-game losing streak.

"We knew it was a big night for Josie … we knew he was going to be pumped up," said forward Brooks Laich, who had an assist. "We tried to play some solid 'D' for him and he was going to make the first save, we tried to clear pucks out and be better on the PK tonight and we were able to do that. He made the great saves when we needed them."

Playing without regulars Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Clark, Jeff Schultz, Boyd Gordon, John Erskine and Tom Poti, the Capitals kept chugging. They maintained a three-point lead in the Southeast Division over Carolina, which beat Philadelphia in overtime earlier Friday.

"I've got a lot of games in this League," Theodore said. "Tonight's really special because we had so many injuries, so many young guys coming in and stepping in -- for a goalie I'm really proud of the guys. I mean, it's a great effort and these guys stepped in, they did a terrific job."

Bryan Helmer, a 36-year-old defenseman who hadn't played in the League since the end of the 2003-04 season, was among a sea of fresh faces that filled in admirably. Karl Alzner, drafted No. 5 in 2007, played more than 23 minutes in just his second NHL game and Sami Lepisto assisted on Steckel's goal for his third career point.

Boudreau, who took over behind the Washington bench just over a year ago and helped the Capitals surge all the way from the Southeast basement to a division title, set a team record by reaching 50 wins in only 84 games. The coach was in a jovial mood when mentioning the contributions of his most recent call-ups.

"Hershey won, too. It's good for the organization," Boudreau said, referring to Washington's AHL affiliate. "For short periods of time, (injuries are) not a bad thing. New guys energize you, you don't get complacent. The fear of losing is a great motivator, and I thought the guys came up and they did a great job.

"There should be seven or eight guys pretty happy in that room because they all contributed. They all played minutes. It wasn't like we brought them up and played them three minutes each. They all played valuable minutes and were successful tonight."

Fleischmann had the only goal during the first two periods. He notched his ninth of the season with 8:57 left in the first, intercepting an attempted breakout pass by Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon. Fleischmann sent a pass over to Michael Nylander and converted the return feed past Jaroslav Halak for his fifth goal in eight games and a 1-0 Washington lead.

Theodore didn't see a shot on goal for the first nine minutes but was tested frequently in the second period, when the Canadiens held a 13-7 shots advantage. But neither team could break through and the Capitals were able to extend their lead in the third.



Ovechkin, coming off a hat trick Wednesday night, made it a lucky 13 goals for the season by beating Halak at the 3:42 mark. The reigning Hart Trophy winner has a 10-game point streak with 11 goals and 11 assists during that span.

Steckel made it 3-0 with his fourth goal 5:04 later, and Theodore finished from there for the 30th shutout of his career. After playing parts of 10 seasons for Montreal, he was traded to Colorado late in the 2005-06 season and was lit up for eight goals as a member of the Avalanche in his only previous start against the Canadiens.

"He was lucky at some times," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said in begrudgingly crediting Theodore. "He made the saves when he had to. We didn't really test him."

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.


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