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Laich, Ovechkin help Capitals add to woes of Devils

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- The Washington Capitals are making the

Verizon Center one of the toughest places to play in the NHL.

Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin each recorded a goal and an

assist, leading the Capitals to a 3-1 victory over the New

Jersey Devils on Friday in the opener of a home-and-home series.

Tomas Fleischmann also tallied and Jose Theodore stopped 32

shots for Washington, which has won five straight.

The Capitals are 13-0-1 in their last 14 regular-season home

games, dating back to last season. They have allowed two or

fewer goals in six straight contests overall - their longest

such streak in a single campaign since February 24-March 4,

2003.

"We're sending the message that we're a tough team to beat at

home," said Theodore, who started in place of the injured Brent

Johnson. "We've been playing really hard. We missed some

goals. It could've been a three- or four-goal lead for us."

Reigning Jack Adams Award winner Bruce Boudreau is thrilled with

his team's defensive play.

"It's been four or five games in a row now that we've allowed

just one or two goals," said the coach, whose team improved to

7-0-1 at home this season.

"If we can keep that up, I think our team is going to score some

goals over the course of the year, so I think the solid defense

is a much better indication of success than the goals scored."

The win was tempered by the loss of Alexander Semin, who left

the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury.

Semin, who entered with a league-leading 27 points, is listed as

day-to-day.

The 24-year-old registered three shots on goal in 12 1/2 minutes

of ice time. But the Capitals received some good news

afterward.

"He'll be fine tomorrow, as far as I know," Boudreau said.

Patrik Elias scored the lone goal for New Jersey, which has lost

four in a row and hosts Washington on Saturday.

"The best thing is that we get to play right away again,"

Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "We've got to fight through

this."

The Devils have sorely missed goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is

out three to four months following elbow surgery. New Jersey

has allowed 18 goals in six games without the four-time Vezina

Trophy winner.

Scott Clemmensen stopped 24 shots in his first start since

January 1 as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it was not

good enough. Clemmensen started in place of Kevin Weekes, who

was pulled after allowing four goals in the second period of

Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers.

Laich put the Capitals up, 1-0, with a power-play tally at 9:52

of the first period, when he deflected Ovechkin's wrist shot

from the left faceoff circle into the left side of the net.

"Laich made a good play," Clemmensen said. "He was right in

front, screening me. After Ovechkin took the shot, I heard a

clap like it was deflected, and then I lost it. Give him

credit, it was a good play. They have a very dangerous power

play."

Fleischmann blasted a one-timer from the left circle past

Clemmensen with 1:29 left in the second period for a 2-0 lead.

Former Devil Viktor Kozlov recorded his 500th career point with

an assist on the goal.

"Fleischmann deserved the goal," Boudreau said. "I thought he

was by the far the best player on the ice tonight on both

teams."

The Devils halved the deficit at 11:55 of the third, when Elias

took advantage of a line change and broke free. He skated down

the middle of the ice and fired a wrist shot between the pads of

Theodore.

"They got caught on the change, obviously, there," Elias said.

"I knew I was going in all alone, so I took my time."

"We had a bad change, and it's unfortunate because Theo deserved

the shutout," Boudreau said.

The breakdown proved irrelevant, however, as Ovechkin added an

empty-netter with 21 seconds left to seal the victory. The

reigning Hart Trophy winner has scored in three straight games

after a career-worst nine-game goalless drought.

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