WASHINGTON -- Alexander Semin of the Carolina Hurricanes nearly had a dream start in his return to the Verizon Center.
But Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby wouldn't allow it. Nor would the Caps allow the Canes and Semin to leave with a victory.
The resurgent Caps took a 3-0 win over the Canes in the Southeast Division game. Holtby did the job in net, center Nicklas Backstrom scored a power-play goal in the first period, defenseman John Erskine an even-strength early in the second and defenseman John Carlson the clincher in the third.
Holtby earned his second shutout of the season and fifth of his career for the Caps (7-10-1) have won five of their last seven games. The Canes, after a 4-2 road win Sunday against the New York Islanders, are 9-8-1 and have dropped four of the past five.
The Canes could have had a 1-0 lead early and perhaps set a different tone for the game had it not been for Holtby.
With the Caps on a power play early in the game, the Canes' Eric Staal and Semin began a rush down the ice, Staal passing to Semin for a breakaway. Semin, who scored 197 goals for the Caps in his seven seasons in Washington, attempted to flick a forehand past Holtby but the Caps goalie -- signed to a two-year contract extension Monday -- got his glove on the shot about three minutes into the game.
"That was a pretty classy move that Eric had there," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "He has a breakaway and lays it up to (Semin) to give him the opportunity to be the hero early in the game. But (Holtby) made the save. That could have been the difference right there."
Moments later, Semin's stretch pass to winger Jussi Jokinen appeared to have sprung Jokinen up the middle. But Jokinen and the Caps' Alexander Ovechkin were tangled up and Jokinen was called for holding.
The Caps, who were 12-for-26 on the power play in their last nine games, cashed in as Backstrom went to the front of the net for a tip, outfighting defenseman Justin Faulk to knock the puck past Ward.
Erskine, who also received a two-year contract extension this week, scored on a big blast from the point just 31 seconds into the second. The Caps dominated most of the period before the Canes finally made a late push in the final five minutes.
Canes goalie Cam Ward faced 17 shots in the first and 14 in the second, and had to be sharp to keep the Canes in the game. He made a spectacular glove save on a shot by Joel Ward with 11 minutes left in the second -- the Caps forward looking at an empty net on a rebound, only to have Cam Ward manage to slide over and make the stop.
With six minutes left in the first period, the Caps' Troy Brouwer had a shorthanded try but Ward made the save.
But the Caps kept constant pressure on Ward and the Canes in the first two periods, getting a number of redirections and tips.
Semin was the first skater on the ice in pregame and was in the starting lineup. He was booed by Caps fans each time he touched the puck and had three shots in the opening period.
Brouwer, who made some critical remarks about Semin on Monday, questioning Semin's work ethic and attitude while with the Caps. also started but there were no extracurriculars.