- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2011

Going into Saturday’s game unbeaten, the Washington Capitals had yet to play their best hockey. Three victories but not yet a complete performance. Still, coach Bruce Boudreau said he’s not going to be “fussy” and worry about winning pretty.

It was deja vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra, as the Caps beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 at Verizon Center with a less-than-stellar performance. The consensus among players was that much work is needed — a sentiment that a very positive Boudreau got on board with.

“It means they’re not satisfied, and that’s great. If we thought we were king of the world right now, then it’d probably be a little more difficult,” he said. “In the clutch, we did what we had to do. Not every game, you’re not going to be beautiful.”

This one was certainly no Picasso. While the Caps jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first, there were defensive and neutral-zone lapses that cut into the advantage and threatened to make it worse. Ottawa’s only goal — late in the first — provided momentum and made for some interesting times as the Caps played a flat second period, arguably their worst of the season.

“We talked about after the first intermission: Now, they feel they’re in the game, so they’re going to come, and we expected a tough game,” goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who finished with 33 saves, said. “One thing I learned — there’s no easy games in this league. And when you think it’s going to be easy, that’s when it’s really, really tough.”

It got tough for the Caps in long stretches, as uneven play coupled with an aggressive, angry Senators team that lost 7-1 Thursday night turned up the heat on Vokoun. And much like Thursday against the Penguins, he was able to take it and prevent the game from turning against his team.

“It was the same as the last game, I think,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who scored his first goal of the season on the power play to make it 1-0. “We had a couple good things out there, but I think a lot of things can get better.”

As for what needs to get better, Backstrom said “pretty much everything.”

“We [need] quicker puck movement and better forechecks, stuff like that,” he added. “And better backchecks — in defensive zone, especially, too.”

Saturday showed a lot of things the Caps can improve on, but Boudreau wasn’t down on the effort. He pointed to the goals against going down (since Monday’s 6-5 shootout win) and the power play as reasons to be encouraged.

“There was a lot of good signs,” the coach said. “I think that’s the sign of a winning team. We’re not satisfied, but we’re happy with some of the things that people are getting better day in and day out.”

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