Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ovechkin, Capitals Snap Streak vs. Sharks

Neither Alexander Ovechkin or the Washington Capitals had much luck against the San Jose Sharks, with the Caps winless against the Sharks since Bill Clinton was in the White House and their two-time Hart Trophy winner never having lit the lamp against the club.

All that changed early in the second period of Washington's 4-1 win over San Jose at Verizon Center, as the Caps snapped their four-game losing streak overall, and an 11-game losing streak to the Sharks. Ovechkin netted a pair of goals just :28 apart to give him at least one goal against every NHL club and also reclaiming the NHL lead in that category with seven overall.

Needing a solid effort against last year's President's Trophy winners, the Capitals got it, outshooting San Jose 37-28 and getting some good goaltending from both starter Jose Theodore and replacement Semyon Varlamov, who came into the game at the start of the second period after the veteran suffered back spasms late in the first period.

Washington got the early breaks, getting a pair of five-on-threes early in the first period, and finally cashed one in when Nicklas Backstrom, parked next to the post, fired it across to Alexander Semin who scored while falling down to put the Capitals up just 7:21 into the period.

However, Theodore was bothered by spasms just over halfway through the period, and he was bothered by them when Benn Ferriero put a puck over his shoulder with 5:53 left in the first. Despite the issue, he turned away 12 of 13 San Jose shots before getting replaced by Varlamov at the start of the second period.

However, Mike Knuble set up Ovechkin's first-ever goal against countryman Evgeni Nabokov, threading a pass through Marc-Edouard Vlasic and to No. 8, who deposited the puck in for a 2-1 Capitals lead 2:55 into the period.

It wasn't long before Ovechkin got his second of the night, firing home a rebound of a Knuble shot to put Washington up 3-1 just :28 later and sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Armed with the lead, Varlamov showed none of the shakiness that got him bounced out of the No. 1 role, as he was perfect with eight saves in eight shots and making some nifty stops in the process.

Unlike the previous losses where the Capitals squandered a lead late by letting the other team take control of the contest, there was no such case on this evening, as Washington outshot San Jose 12-7 in the final 20 minutes and Matt Bradley picked up his second of the season with a shot just under the crossbar 5:11 into the third period.

The result was Washington's first win against the Sharks since February 20, 1999, and just the second time in its last dozen games against the San Jose franchise (1-10-1). More importantly for this year's team, it ends a 0-2-2 streak and certainly was an impressive win over a solid club with some firepower.

Washington wraps up its homestand against Nashville Saturday, and also will end an eight-game stretch against non-divisional opponents which will come to an end next Thursday when the Capitals visit Atlanta.

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