- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Washington Capitals had more than a few chances to score Saturday night.

Marcus Johansson was stopped on a breakaway. So was Alex Ovechkin. Brooks Laich’s shot from the doorstep went right into Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson’s left pad. Troy Brouwer had such a good look on a back-hand attempt that Ovechkin had his arms in the air in premature celebration as the puck sailed over the net.

But the Caps didn’t get frustrated and kept plugging away, eventually ending up with a 3-2 overtime victory at Verizon Center that snapped a four-game skid.

“You’ve got to keep going,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “It’s a 60-minute game and you’ve got to keep going, and today was positive.”

This was far from an offensive showcase, with the Caps putting up just three goals despite a bevy of scoring chances and 35 shots. But they didn’t fall apart when the Senators tied it the first time in the second period and then again in the third as Laich’s overtime winner from Jason Chimera gave Dale Hunter his first win as an NHL coach.

“It feels good. It’s one of those things that you want to get over with right away, hopefully the first game but it ended up being the third,” Hunter said. “It’s one of the things you want to get under your belt and move on.”

Hunter and the Caps are able to move on because of an offense that was more fervent Saturday night than the first two games of this new regime.

Had they been unable to win this one against a middling Senators team, there may have been a lot of talk about ruing missed opportunities. But getting so many of them is a step forward, and finally cashing in made for a lot of smiles.

“You know it’s going to come. If you keep doing the right things, you’re going to score and you’re going to generate chances,” veteran right wing Mike Knuble said. “I think we ought to be happy that we generated 35 ourselves and we were able to capitalize like that.”

Learning and integrating Hunter’s systems will take time. Everyone recognizes that. But Saturday night showed visible progress because the Caps scored more goals in 60 minutes and 12 seconds of overtime than they did the previous two games combined.

Backstrom’s goal was a perfect wrister from the slot. Brouwer’s goal came as the Caps were pressing Ottawa on a three-on-two. Laich’s goal was also the result of movement.

“We countered on them and had pretty good speed,” Hunter said. “The [Senators defenseman] tripped because of the speed and we got a two-on-one break.”

But the Caps expect even more out of this offense in the coming days and weeks ahead.

“Get pucks in and work hard. It’s funny that we got all our goals off the rush,” Knuble said. “Typically we’re going to be a better cycling team over the long run, I think.”

Once that happens, and the Caps take better advantage of opportunities, they’re optimistic about turning their season around.