Capitals finally see a little action

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Scrimmage produces blowout of ECHL affiliate

They filled every seat in the bleachers at Kettler Iceplex and wound their way around the boards two rows deep. Another hundred people or so watched from the balcony above the playing surface.

Local hockey fans have been desperate to see their sport in any version after a 113-day NHL lockout deprived them of it for almost four months. With the league back in action and training camps underway, an estimated 800 people showed up to watch the Capitals scrimmage ECHL affiliate Reading on Tuesday morning.

Up next
Capitals at Lightning
When » Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where » Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Fla.
TV » CSN

It wasn't much of a game. Neither side appeared to know how physical the contest should be. It was an exhibition, after all. And the hockey wasn't much to look at. But that was beside the point. For most of Reading's players, it was a chance to share the same ice surface with stars such as Alex Ovechkin. For Washington, it was the only real game action it will get before Saturday's opener at Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay.

"It's a good situation and a tough one because the goal was to get the guys a competitive pace," new Caps coach Adam Oates said. "But it's also hard because you're playing against your organization, and it's hard to jack it up to the correct level. But I thought all-in-all they did a great job."

As expected, it wasn't much of a competition. Washington won the game 8-0. Jay Beagle scored twice for the Caps, and Ovechkin, John Carlson, Matt Hendricks, Wojtek Wolski, Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom had the other tallies. They led 1-0 after the first period, 4-0 after the second -- Ovechkin wowed the crowd with a one-timer blasted into the net -- and added four more in the third period. To keep some semblance of competitive balance, Washington goalie Braden Holtby was in net for Reading, and so was Michal Neuvirth in the second half of the contest. Reading goalies manned the net for the Caps.

"It was more gonna benefit our group as a whole," Holtby said. "It's different circumstances. You don't get the full pregame preparation that really comes into play. But it was good to get out there in a game situation."

Meanwhile, the team survived a scare in the first period when Ovechkin, playing on the right wing early this season instead of his usual left wing spot, tried to cross behind Johansson. Instead, the two collided, and Ovechkin was left with a cut chin and a fat lip. He lay bleeding on the ice for a few moments and returned to the dressing room for treatment.

"Just situation when I was on the right side, and, you know, it's kind of something new for me, crossing [at] different angle, so I don't know whose fault it is," said Ovechkin, who also had the wind knocked out of him. "But I don't feel pretty good after that."

But he still returned to finish the contest, scoring that second-period goal and assisting on another by Carlson. He insisted he will be fine.

"It's something to laugh about now, I guess," Johansson said.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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