WASHINGTON (AP) -Just thinking about how much better his Washington Capitals are made Alex Ovechkin smile wide, showing off that new gap in his grin.
A night after losing a tooth, Ovechkin flicked in the game's first goal for his 200th NHL point, helping the Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Saturday.
The Capitals improved to 2-0-0 for the first time since 2002 - the last time they reached the postseason. Getting to the playoffs is the club's stated aim, following an offseason in which veteran talent was added to a young core built around Ovechkin.
"We play better as a team," said Ovechkin, who helped preserve Olie Kolzig's shutout by blocking a shot in the closing seconds. "We play better for each other."
Washington controlled the action for long stretches against Carolina (1-1-1). That included a 14-2 edge in shots in the first period and a 33-23 advantage overall.
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette was asked if his team was flat in the first period.
"I'd say the first 40 minutes - not just 20," he said. "I thought Washington was on their toes all night, offensively and defensively. Anytime a puck came up in question, it was their puck. We showed more spark in the third period, but it's too little too late."
When the Hurricanes did create chances, Kolzig was brilliant in his first game of the season. He drew chants of "Oh-lee! Oh-lee!" late in the third period after stuffing Ray Whitney's close-range shot off a pass from Erik Cole.
"If he took a little shallower shot at the net, he would've scored," Kolzig said, "but he kind of shot it back into me."
Kolzig has been around long enough to remember when the Capitals reached the playoffs consistently. Washington wants to get back there, of course, and signs on sidewalks around the arena carry the motto, "New Look. New Season. New Attitude." The team's new red home uniforms made their debut Saturday; most in the crowd of 16,741 were wearing that color, too.
Ovechkin "likely feels like the rest of the players - there's something special that's starting to build here," coach Glen Hanlon said.
One of the team's new players, center Viktor Kozlov, set up Ovechkin's goal 14:24 into the game, drawing three Hurricanes toward him before sliding a no-look pass over to the 2005-06 NHL rookie of the year.
"That's the best lane exchange I've seen in this building for a few years," Hanlon said. "They really seem like they enjoy playing with each other."
Ovechkin one-timed a shot past goalie John Grahame, lifting the Russian's totals to 99 goals and 101 assists in 165 career games. No Capitals player had arrived at the 200-point plateau so quickly; among all active NHL players, only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby got there in fewer games (142).
In Washington's 3-1 victory at Atlanta on Friday night, one of Ovechkin's top, middle teeth was broken when he took a stick to the face. After the game, the remaining piece of the tooth was yanked out, and Ovechkin was given 14 stitches.
He seemed to delight in the empty space between his teeth Saturday, sticking his tongue in there and smiling widely whenever he noticed his mug up on the new high-definition video screens above the ice. He resembled a little kid who loses his first incisor and can't wait to see what the Tooth Fairy leaves under the pillow.
"Oh, yeah," the 22-year-old Ovechkin said with a laugh when asked after the game if he's pleased with his new look. "Girls will like it."
The Capitals' other goal Saturday came 5:00 into the second period, on defenseman Milan Jurcina's slap shot from the point on a power play. Alexander Semin - who missed Washington's season opener with a right ankle injury - and Nicklas Backstrom were credited with assists.
"We were sitting on our heels," Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley said. "We obviously didn't play to our potential."
Notes: The Hurricanes opened a six-game road trip; they don't play at home again until Oct. 22. ... Backstrom has an assist in each of his first two NHL games. ... Kolzig's only shutout of 2006-07 came April 3 - in his next-to-last start of the season.