Capitals surging early on

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Alex Ovechkin, Olie Kolzig, Michael Nylander and Tom Poti, will likely determine whether the Washington Capitals return to the playoffs after three failed seasons.

Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig (back) has the Capitals off to a good start despite losing their first game on Friday night.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig (back) has the Capitals off to a good start despite losing their first game on Friday night.

But fourth-liner Brooks Laich kept the new-look Capitals undefeated in the first week of the season.

Laich hadn't scored a goal since Feb. 27, a span of 20 games, and had only 15 in three NHL seasons when he hit the ice for a Columbus Day matinee Monday on Long Island.

With just over 12 minutes remaining in a tie game, Laich's goal provided the winning margin in a 2-1 Capitals victory over the New York Islanders.

"It's definitely nice to be able to contribute offensively," the 24-year-old Saskatchewan native said. "That's something I think I can do more of this season, show some offensive touch, in addition to playing solid defensively.

"I know my role is to be a dependable forward."

If the Capitals are to return to the playoffs, and that is the driving force on a daily basis for Washington, they will need much more than big years from star players.

The Capitals outscored opponents 7-2 in jumping out to a 3-0 start - their best since the 2002-03 season when they last made the playoffs.

Laich had help on Long Island as Kolzig made 30 saves while Washington recorded only 12 shots at the other end. But his hard-nosed style in just over 12 minutes of ice time might've gone unnoticed by a casual observer if not for the timely goal.

PRICE IS RIGHT: Carey Price has a flair for the dramatic.

Making his first NHL start in goal 22 years to the day after Hall of Famer Patrick Roy did the same, also in Pittsburgh for the Montreal Canadiens, the 20-year-old Price skated off with a victory.

Price - the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft - earned his first win against a formidable lineup featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Mark Recchi. He stopped 26 shots in the 3-2 win Wednesday night.

But Wednesday didn't just belong to Price.

Brian Elliott kick-started his NHL career the same night and earned his first win - backstopping Ottawa's 3-1 win at Atlanta.

Elliott, 22, was the 291st pick in the 2003 draft. He helped Ottawa improve to 5-0 this season after earning a roster spot to back up Martin Gerber while No. 1 Senators goalie Ray Emery recovers from wrist surgery,

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this daily double marked just the third time in 25 years that a pair of goalies won their NHL debut on the same day.

NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP: Paul Stastny finished second to rookie of the year Malkin last season, but started this campaign as the NHL's top star in the first week.

The emerging Avalanche forward raced out with four goals and four assists in Colorado's opening three games - including his first NHL hat trick.

"Always in the past I've been a slow starter, but obviously you adapt and you learn," said the 21-year-old son of Hall of Famer Peter Stastny. "I learned a lot last year, and I trained a lot harder this summer thinking this year would be a lot harder than last year."


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