By Tim Hipps
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- The reigning Hart Trophy winner picked up
right where he left off last season.
Alex Ovechkin scored two goals to lead the Washington Capitals
to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks before a sellout
crowd of 18,277 at the Verizon Center on Saturday night.
Brooks Laich netted what proved to be the game-winner with 4:27
remaining in the third period for the Capitals, who improved to
18-14-2 in home openers.
With the contest even at 2-2, Alexander Semin skated toward the
net from the left side and fired a shot that was denied by a
sprawling Nikolai Khabibulin. Laich grabbed to the loose puck
in the crease and lifted a backhander that just crossed the goal
line before the goaltender was able to glove it.
Following a video review, the on-ice officials reversed their
initial call, awarding the goal to Laich.
"I couldn't tell if it crossed the line," Khabibulin said.
"Obviously, they replayed it and called it good. It is what it
is. They had a better view, I guess."
"It was kind of a broken play, the puck's squirting everywhere,"
Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell added. "What you see is what
Blackhawks coach Denis Savard had no idea which way the call
"There was no signal on the ice, and you're supposed to have a
signal," Savard said. "I guess in Toronto, they said it was
conclusive. I didn't see it, I couldn't tell. To me, I looked
on the screen, on the ice, and I couldn't even tell. I'm sure
they've got better angles."
Ovechkin added an insurance tally with 96 seconds remaining as
the Capitals posted their seventh consecutive regular-season
home victory dating back to last season.
"We know we can come back," said Ovechkin, who has scored a goal
in each of the four home openers of his career. "It doesn't
matter what the score is. It shows our heart and (that) we
never give up. There is a great atmosphere in the locker room.
Everyone believes in each other. This is the result."
Ovechkin's two-goal performance was his third in a home opener
and the 32nd multi-goal effort of his career. The Capitals are
24-8-0 in those games, including wins in 14 of the last 15.
"He's a great player, and you look him and how he plays - he
wins his battles," Savard said. "That's why he's a star player.
(If) you want to be a star player, you do it every night, not
just once in a while. That's why he's great."
Washington raised its record to 8-1-1 in home openers since
moving into the Verizon Center in 1998.
The Capitals hoisted their 2007-08 Southeast Division
championship banner to the rafters in a pregame ceremony
presided by coach Bruce Boudreau, captain Chris Clark and
alternate captains Sergei Fedorov and Ovechkin. But just 26
seconds after the opening faceoff, the Blackhawks grabbed the
Kris Versteeg carried down the right wing and blasted a shot
that found its way between the pads of goaltender Jose Theodore.
"I know there are 59 more minutes left, and if you don't allow
any more goals, then it doesn't matter how bad the goal is,"
Playing in just his 19th NHL game, Jack Skille doubled the
advantage at 11:41, burying his own rebound from the right
Matt Bradley converted a pass from David Steckel less than two
minutes later to pull Washington within 2-1. Ovechkin had a
chance to even the contest with 51 seconds remaining in the
period, but Khabibulin denied his breakaway chance.
Ovechkin did knot the game at 5:07 of the middle session,
beating Khabibulin from the top of the right faceoff circle for
his first goal of the season.
"We are a resilient group, and everybody battled back and picked
up the slack," Boudreau said. "We knew Theo was pretty nervous
early. He came back and played great the last two periods."
Khabibulin finished with 30 saves, while Theodore made 19 saves.