- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2011

Just when the air had been taken out of the Washington Capitals in the third period of Saturday night’s season opener, coach Bruce Boudreau displayed only calm behind the bench. The message was clear.

“I just said, ‘We’ll get another one. Don’t worry, guys,’” he recalled.

Given the Caps’ offensive firepower, it’s hard to question that kind of optimism. But Washington didn’t just get another goal to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime — they did so on the power play.

The much-maligned unit scored twice, making up for some penalty-killing miscues and paving the way for this victory.

“When our power play is scoring, we’re usually successful,” Boudreau said. “Specialty teams in today’s game are so important. That’s what it came down to again tonight.”

This wasn’t a night in which the power play was clicking and unstoppable. Early on it was disjointed, and, while the puck movement was there, the quality scoring opportunities weren’t. Carolina goaltender Brian Boucher didn’t have to worry about difficult shots coming his way.

Players described some early-game jitters with the puck bouncing around a bit on them. But when the power play got big-time chances — a five-on-three in the third period and then a four-on-three in overtime — it cashed in.

And the Caps did so by melding the man advantage down to its simplest form: Shoot the puck. It’s often easier said than done, but on both power-play goals they managed to get point shots through traffic.

On the first, it was a shot by Alex Ovechkin that went wide before Brooks Laich tapped it in.

“The main thing is it’s a shot. It starts with a shot. Anytime you take shots — I know as a penalty-killer — it forces the penalty-killers to turn around,” Laich said. “It happened with their defensemen — Ovi takes the shot. Their D-man turns around to find the puck and I was able to spin behind him and find an open net.”

On the second (the game-winner) it was Mike Green banking it in off Hurricanes defenseman Bryan Allen.

“I just had to find a spot,” Green said. “I just had to get the shot off.”

All night the Caps tried to get shots off, especially from the blue line. Twenty-two times someone on the Hurricanes blocked it. But when the Caps got some open ice and did get it through, the work paid off.

“I was impressed overall of how we were starting to get shots [through]. That’s a good shot-blocking team out there,” Boudreau said. “If you keep taking shots, eventually something good’s going to happen.”

The incredible part is how the Caps were on the power play for 7:01, managed just six shots but still scored a couple goals — enough to make the difference. Putting quality shots on net was a subject of discussion in practice this week, according to Laich.

“The toughest part in this league is getting pucks through,” Green added. “Guys are so brave to stand in front of shots and block them nowadays. It makes it difficult. But if you can find a way, you know you’re going to give yourself a good chance to score because there are so many guys in front.”

Given how the Caps dropped to 16th in the NHL on the power play last season, this was an opportune time to have that group come through.

“It’s always nice,” Ovechkin said. “Especially in overtime when you have the opportunity four-on-three you have to use it. We have the chance and we win it.”

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