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Erat sparks Capitals over Blue Jackets

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- Desperate for his team to break out of an offensive slump, Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates shook up three of his four forward lines for Saturday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Martin Erat received the biggest promotion of the night, moving from the fourth line to the second, and the 32-year old left winger responded with his biggest night since joining the Capitals.

Erat assisted on goals by Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin, and Braden Holtby turned aside 37 of 38 shots for his second victory of the season as the Capitals rolled to a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets at the Verizon Center.

Joel Ward also scored for the Capitals, who converted 2-of-4 power plays for their third win of the season.

In the first seven games of the season Erat averaged just 8:46 of ice time and had no points. Against the Blue Jackets he logged 17:49 of ice time and recorded three assists.

"He was flying tonight," said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who picked up his seventh goal of the season. "He was the best player for us tonight. He showed who he is."

Erat deflected all of the attention after the game.

"It's nice to have a good game, but in the end it's all about the wins," he said. "We got the win and that's the bottom line."

The Blue Jackets (2-5-0) avoided a shutout when Artem Anisimov scored with 4:55 remaining in the game. Columbus saw its losing streak reach four games.

"We've got higher expectations than our record, that's for sure," said Blue Jackets left wing Blake Comeau. "Guys are frustrated. We know that we've got to get better. I think everyone in this locker room knows that when we're not winning we've got to find that extra gear."

The Capitals opened a 2-0 lead in the second period on goals by Ward and Laich and broke the game open in the third when Brouwer put in his own rebound for his second goal of the season and Ovechkin blasted a Mike Green pass through Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for his team-high seventh goal of the season.

"We unraveled," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We got what we deserved. It's a 2-0 game and we were still in it at that time. What's frustrating is how the game ended. Systematically, we unraveled."

After a scoreless first period in which Holtby stopped 14 shots, the Capitals used their power play to get on the board for the first time in two games.

A tripping penalty to Brandon Dubinsky 1:26 into the second period put the NHL's top-rated power play on the ice and Joel Ward made the Blue Jackets pay, firing a Marcus Johansson centering pass under the crook of Bobrovsky's right arm. It was Ward's second goal of the season, both coming on the power play.

Johansson was promoted to the first power play unit in place of Mikhail Grabovski, who was also dropped from the Caps' second line to the third.

Minutes later, a sprawling save by Holtby on Cam Atkinson led to the Capitals' second goal. As the Capitals made their way back up the ice, defenseman Steve Oleksy made a slick move around Atkinson and wristed a shot on Bobrovsky. The rebound went to Laich, who backhanded a shot into the open net for his second of the season.

"You can see how we play when (Holtby) is on fire," Ovechkin said. "We have a lot of confidence when he makes big saves like that."

NOTES: Capitals D John Erskine sat out his third straight game with an upper body injury. ... Blue Jackets RW Nathan Horton sat out his seventh straight game with a shoulder injury. ... The Capitals begin a five-game road trip Tuesday when they visit the Winnipeg Jets. Their trip continues with stops in Edmonton on Thursday, Calgary on Oct. 26, Vancouver on Oct. 28 and Philadelphia on Nov. 1. ... The Blue Jackets begin a four-game homestand Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks, when G Curtis McElhinney is expected to make his first start of the season. The Jackets have lost both of their games at Nationwide Arena this season.
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