Washington Capitals at Ottawa Senators
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- Alex Ovechkin's return to his usual spot led to his first goal and a first victory for the Washington Capitals in this shortened season.
With some of the pressure off, Ovechkin and the visiting Capitals try to further that momentum Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators, who are trying to get back to their winning ways themselves.
Much was made of the star Russian's early season struggles as first-year coach Adam Oates flipped Ovechkin to right wing. His lack of offense the first four games - Ovechkin had only one assist - combined with Washington's porous defense in being outscored 19-8 in an 0-3-1 start had intensified the pressure on the team given the 48-game schedule.
But a vintage Ovechkin goal, a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from defenseman Mike Green on the power play early in the third period, proved to be the winner in Sunday's 3-2 victory over Buffalo. The goal brought a much-needed positive vibe for the Capitals (1-3-1) ahead of their two-game swing through Ontario that concludes Thursday at Toronto.
"We finally win, so it's much, much better for us," said Ovechkin, who has 18 goals and 34 points in 26 lifetime games versus the Senators. "There's no pressure on our shoulders now ... 5-on-5, we played much better right now."
That disciplined even-strength play was apparent as Washington successfully killed off its only two penalties. The Capitals had given opponents at least five power plays in each of the first four games and conceded eight goals in 24 short-handed situations in their slow start.
Oates plans on keeping Ovechkin at left wing to get his best player on track. Mike Ribeiro, who had two assists Sunday, has a team-high six points while Joel Ward has scored three of Washington's 11 goals.
As Washington appears to have righted itself, Ottawa (3-1-1) is trying to regroup after back-to-back losses following a fast start. The Senators did salvage a point in their last game, a 2-1 loss Sunday at home to Pittsburgh as Craig Anderson had 33 saves before failing to stop James Neal, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the three shootout rounds.
"We did what we had to do to get a point, I thought we did more than enough offensively in the shootout to get the second, and I'm not happy with my performance in the shootout," said Anderson, whose team scored twice in the shootout.
Anderson, who has a 3-0-1 record with a 0.74 goals-against average, is expected to start. He went 1-1-1 with a 3.01 GAA in three starts versus Washington last season and made 33 saves in a 5-2 home victory Feb. 22 in the most recent matchup.
First-line center Jason Spezza has registered a point in all five games this season but has not scored a goal in his last seven against the Capitals. Norris Trophy winner and Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, though, had two goals and three assists in the final three games between the teams in 2011-12.
Updated January 29, 2013