- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Thanks to Alex Ovechkin _ who else? _ the Washington Capitals finally rediscovered how to win at home.

Ovechkin moved within one goal of becoming the first Capitals player with 50 in three seasons and netted the winner in the shootout, helping his team end a four-game losing streak in Washington with a 5-4 victory over Carolina on Saturday night.

Mike Green scored his 24th goal, most among NHL defensemen, and assisted on Ovechkin’s tally, while Alexander Semin has his 29th goal and three assists.

Erik Cole, Eric Staal and Ray Whitney each scored a goal and had at least one assist for Carolina, winless in its past three road games.

Washington kept scoring _ taking leads of 3-1 and 4-2 _ and Carolina kept responding. But in the shootout, Jose Theodore stopped attempts by Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen, while Semin tallied after Cam Ward blocked Viktor Kozlov’s try.

That left things up to Ovechkin, and he didn’t disappoint his fans. The last time Washington played at home, it was Ovechkin’s miss in a shootout that left the Capitals on the losing end against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Capitals won 18 of their first 20 home games this season, but entered Saturday just 7-8-1 since then. Magnifying their woes in Washington is this: They have won five games in a row away from the nation’s capital.

Still, the Capitals got going back in the right direction thanks to their top players: Ovechkin and Semin each extended personal point streaks, while Green ended his seven-game goal drought. Ovechkin has seven goals and seven assists in his past 10 games, while Semin is up to seven goals and nine assists in his nine-game run.

But after Nicklas Backstrom’s goal off Michael Nylander’s pass gave Washington a 4-2 lead 12 1/2 minutes into the second period, Carolina rallied.

First, the Hurricanes pulled within a goal on Whitney’s score with only 7.3 seconds remaining in the second period, off assists from Cole and Staal. And then the visitors tied it midway through the third period, on Niclas Wallin’s second goal this season, off a cross-ice pass from Dennis Seidenberg.

It was Cole who put Carolina ahead 1-0 about 10 minutes into the game, off an assist from Staal. Cole took the pass and, while moving to his left away from the net, swept the puck across his body and past defenseman John Erskine and Theodore.

It was Cole’s 18th goal of the season overall, and he has eight points _ two goals, six assists _ in six games since Carolina reacquired him in a trade-deadline deal.

Asked before the game what Cole adds to the Hurricanes, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t hesitate.

“Size and speed,” Boudreau said. “It’s an element they didn’t have of size. They were really quick up front, but they didn’t have that power forward.”

It took 66 seconds for the Capitals to tie the game at 1-all, with Green ending a personal seven-game goal skid. Semin and Backstrom assisted.

Ovechkin then snapped the tie _ and was the one celebrating at the end, too.

Notes:@ The Capitals recalled F Keith Aucoin from Hershey of the AHL. He played in place of Sergei Fedorov, who missed a second consecutive game with what Boudreau called flulike symptoms. … Washington enforcer Donald Brashear sat out a second game in a row with a knee injury. … Hurricanes RW Scott Walker missed a fifth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Carolina had four healthy scratches: D Frantisek Kaberle, C Brandon Sutter, C Michael Ryan, C Dwight Helminen. … None of Washington’s remaining 12 games is against a team that made the playoffs last season.

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