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Ward scores twice to lead Capitals past Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames managed to keep Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin in check for 60 minutes Saturday. They forgot about Joel Ward though.

While Ovechkin didn't register on the scoresheet, Ward scored twice, including the game-winner, and Braden Holtby made 20 saves to lift the Capitals to a 3-1 victory against the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

"That's the game plan," Ward said. "Obviously they keyed on [Ovechkin] quite a bit so there's always openings for some of us. You just try to capitalize as best you can. Heck of a job from our line today."

Ovechkin, a four-time winner of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer, had eight goals and 15 points in eight games against Calgary heading into Saturday. Ward had three assists in 15 career games prior to Washington's victory, its first on a three-game road trip through Western Canada that concludes Sunday at the Vancouver Canucks.

"I've known Joel a long time, some time. Joel recognizes when he can go a little better," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's a great response from him. He scored two big goals for us tonight and that's what you want. You want guys to respond, not to pout. You want him to take it as something to motivate him and he played very well tonight."

The loss for the Flames followed their only win on home ice this season and dropped them to 1-1-1 through the first three games of their five-game homestand. Calgary hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday before concluding Friday against the Nashville Predators.

"I don't think that we gave ourselves a chance to win," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "It seems that we had the momentum of the game for just small parts of the game. Even though I don't think we had our best game, I think we still had some chances in the third to come back and make a game out of it. The effort was there, but our execution was not as good as I think it could have been. Unfortunately, you get some nights like this."

Ward put Washington on the board at 11:17 of the opening period with his first goal of the game.

After Joe Colborne was whistled for tripping, Ward capitalized on a miscue by Deryk Engelland. With the puck at the Calgary blue line, Engelland whiffed on a cross-ice clearing pass. Ward scooped up the puck, broke in alone and whipped a shot past Flames goalie Karri Ramo (27 saves).

"I was just trying to get on the forecheck, trying to put a little pressure," Ward said. "Obviously he whiffed on it. It was a freak play. I wasn't expected it to be honest. I just tried to get a shot off and I was fortunate to beat him. That's as high as I can go. For me, that's max. That's where it was going and whatever was happening was happening. That's as best I’ve got."

Calgary responded with a power-play goal of its own. With Troy Brouwer serving a roughing minor, Dennis Wideman faked a slap shot from the point before moving into the middle and releasing a shot that caught an unsuspecting Holtby off guard with 9.9 seconds remaining in the period.

The goal was Wideman's fifth, tops among NHL defensemen. All have come in his past six games. He has a four-game goal-scoring streak. It was also Wideman's 300th career point.

But Ward scored his second goal of the game and fourth of the season at 5:41 of the second period, when he tapped a Michael Latta centering pass behind Ramo to put the Capitals up 2-1.

"That was more inside the crease," Ward said. "In tight and [Latta] made a good play on the wall to shake a D-man and buy us some time to get up the ice. He made a good play carrying it along. I was fortunate to just find it through some feet and put it home."

The goal came after Jay Beagle couldn't convert on two chances to put Washington ahead. His consecutive backhand attempts were thwarted by the right pad of Ramo. Beagle was playing his second game of the season after returning from an upper-body injury sustained in the preseason.

Nicklas Backstrom extended Washington's lead 41 seconds into the third period when he stepped over the Calgary blue line and snapped a shot that fooled Ramo.

With 8:04 remaining, Paul Byron broke in alone on Holtby with a shorthanded attempt but Holtby bested him with a pad save on the deke. With a shorthanded breakaway of his own at 6:23, Backstrom was denied on a similar forehand-to-backhand deke by Ramo to keep Calgary within two.

The save on Byron, Holtby admitted, was crucial.

"There's always one that comes that you have to be called upon in those games where your team is playing very well," Holtby said. "That's your job. It happened the other night in Edmonton. I didn't come through. Tonight I really wanted to make sure I was there. We played so well as a team. That's my contribution. It's just all guys pulling on the same rope."

Holtby posted a 12.41 goals-against average and .760 save percentage in 29:10 split between two games against Calgary last season. He was pulled in each game.

"It's a long time ago," he said. "Both those games, those six goals, I still remember them. They're good goals. It wasn't a thing about Calgary. I think we are a completely different team now. We weren't worried about that at all."

Ovechkin hit the post with the Capitals on the power play with 4:43 remaining in regulation.

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