- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2009

Considering how many times the Washington Capitals dropped games to clearly inferior opponents last season, the adage of “two points is two points” came to mind Saturday night.

Alex Ovechkin had two goals and scored the only tally in a shootout to lead his Capitals to a 3-2 victory against the Nashville Predators at Verizon Center.

“It was good to get two points. They are important points,” Ovechkin said. “We still have to work on stuff to be better.”

Ovechkin gave the Caps a 2-0 advantage with a pair of first-period goals. Fifteen seconds after Eric Fehr drew his second penalty in as many shifts, Ovechkin drilled a one-timer from Mike Green past the outstretched skate of Nashville netminder Dan Ellis at 5:27.

Fehr hasn’t collected a point in four games since returning from shoulder surgery, but he had a dynamite first period. Not only did he create two power plays, but he also helped foster several scoring chances with linemates Chris Clark and Keith Aucoin with his work around the net.

“I feel like I am getting a little close. I think we had some great chances,” Fehr said. “I think we were buzzing there in the first period and early in the second. We are close to getting past that hump.”

Late in the period, Brendan Morrison lofted the puck from near the Washington blue line in Ovechkin’s general direction. It took a weird bounce off the glass and squirted past Nashville defenseman Teemu Laakso, enabling Ovechkin to collect it with a clear path to the net. He slipped the puck past Ellis at 18:15 for his league-leading ninth goal of the year.

It was Ovechkin’s second straight multigoal game and his fourth this season. He needed 19 games last season to reach nine goals; he finished the campaign with 56. Mike Knuble had the secondary assist on both goals, giving him six points in three games on Ovechkin’s line.

Ovechkin has had his share of struggles in the shootout, but he faked a shot, deked to his forehand and easily beat Ellis. Some fans even threw hats on the ice to celebrate his “hat trick” even though shootout goals do not count toward season totals.

After the Caps were unable to widen their lead, the Predators slowly regrouped and got back in the contest.

“A team like that has been going through a real tough stretch here, but they played better against Chicago and were back on the upswing a little,” Morrison said. “I think if we get that third goal, it is a completely different game, but we didn’t. It was a classic case of just letting a team hang around and hang around, and we gave them some life.”

Nashville went nearly 18 minutes without a shot on goal but leveled the score with a strong finish to the second period. Defenseman Shea Weber blasted a shot from just inside the top of the right circle over the shoulder of Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov at 14:29 to cut the lead in half.

The Predators got a bit lucky on their second goal. J.P. Dumont tried to center the puck from along the wall in the left corner, but it hit Brian Pothier’s skate and sneaked behind an unsuspecting Varlamov at 16:04.

After the Caps opened the season with six of their first seven games against playoff teams from a season ago, this was the first of a 12-contest stretch that includes nine games against teams that missed the postseason last year.

Too many losses to such teams as Nashville, Los Angeles and Phoenix last season prevented the Caps from challenging for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. This season, Washington is 2-for-2 against clubs not expected to be in contention, including a 6-4 victory against Toronto.

Varlamov was again sharp in net, stopping 22 of 24 shots and boasting a clean sheet in the shootout. He still hasn’t lost a regular-season game in regulation in his brief career.

“I thought we were all over them in the first, but it was kind of fire-wagon hockey,” Morrison said. “We were trading chances, but [Varlamov] made some really big saves. It easily could have been 2-2 after the first.”

Added coach Bruce Boudreau: “I thought he played real good. I think it was important that he had a good third period. That shot by Weber I don’t think any human would have stopped that. It was going about 110 miles per hour.”

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