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Blackhawks can't hold lead vs. Ovechkin, Capitals
A lot of promises are made in the nation's capital, and some of them are even kept.
The Blackhawks were trying to show a different kind of promise this weekend, one that would establish them as a force in the 2008-09 season. Instead they remain winless after losing to the Washington Capitals 4-2 Saturday night before a crowd of 18,277 at the Verizon Center.
The Capitals' Brooks Laich scored the pivotal goal with 4 minutes 27 seconds remaining in the third period and Alex Ovechkin scored twice to help send the Hawks home from an opening weekend on the East Coast with no points. The Hawks dropped their first game 4-2 Friday night to the Rangers in New York.
Nikolai Khabibulin, who missed a portion of training camp while trying to work out a deal with the Russian Kontinental Hockey League, was playing in his first game since April 6 of last season. The veteran goaltender showed no rust after not appearing in any of the eight exhibitions and kept the Hawks in it with a strong 30-save effort.
"It's not fun to lose a game like that," Khabibulin said. "I don't think we played a really strong game, but it was a tight game with 41/2 minutes to go. It's hard, but we have to learn from it."
Laich's score trickled past Khabibulin over the line during a goalmouth scramble, and the league reviewed it before making it official.
Kris Versteeg got the Hawks off to a quick 1-0 start with a goal 26 seconds into the game. The rookie broke free down the left side and fired a wrist shot between the pads of Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore.
The Hawks took a 2-0 lead when fellow rookie Jack Skille banged home a rebound of his own shot from in close at the 11:41 mark.
Matt Bradley's goal cut the lead in half at 13:26, but Khabibulin thwarted several Capitals chances early, including stopping Ovechkin — last season's top goal scorer in the NHL — on a breakaway with 52 seconds left in the first period.
Ovechkin got his revenge at 5:07 of the second when he put a wrist shot past Khabibulin to tie it 2-2 despite having Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell in his face. Ovechkin struck again after Laich's goal for the final margin.
"You can't defend him with just one guy," Campbell said of Ovechkin. "Especially when he cuts to the middle, it's hard to gap up on him. You need help from forwards."
The Hawks host Nashville in the home opener Monday night at the United Center.
"You have to be a good road team in this league," Campbell said. "It's not the way you want to start the season. [Saturday night] I thought was a lot better, but we're still not there and still making a few mistakes that put the puck in our net."