Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 11/29/11
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Dale Hunter's NHL coaching career began with a thud Tuesday night as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals struggled again in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. T.J. Oshie and Matt D'Agostini scored, Jaroslav Halak made 18 saves, and the Blues held Ovechkin without a shot on goal for two periods to win their fourth straight game and improve to 8-1-2 under Ken Hitchcock. Nicklas Backstrom got the lone goal for the Capitals, whose attack was as ineffective under Hunter as it had been recently under fired coach Bruce Boudreau. Washington was outshot 30-19 by the stingiest defense in the NHL, and two stars who bore the brunt of Boudreau's more disciplinarian ways in recent weeks failed to get untracked in the new regime's debut. Ovechkin supplied the assist on Backstrom's first-period goal, but the two-time league MVP's first shot on goal came with 18:14 to play, and Alexander Semin's first came a few minutes later. Wearing a blue suit -- "the only one I got," he said -- and a lime green tie with blue and white diagonal stripes, Hunter took his spot behind the bench to cheers from Capitals fans who watched him play for the franchise from 1987-99 and can look up anytime to the rafters to see the banner featuring his retired No. 32 jersey. The team's production staff put together slick videos with the themes "History welcomes you back, Coach" and "November 29, 2011, back where you belong," the second one bringing the crowd to its feet during a first-period break. The dividends of the Hunter era weren't apparent right away. The Blues controlled play from the opening whistle, winning individual battles and keeping the puck bottled up at the Capitals' end. It took a counterattack begun by goalie Tomas Vokoun to produce the first goal, with Ovechkin feeding Backstrom for the one-time wrister that went underneath Halak's right leg pad. The Blues got their well-deserved tying goal later in the first period when Oshie put in the rebound when Alexander Steen's shot hit the underside of the crossbar. St. Louis failed to take advantage of a pair of Capitals penalties in the second period -- Washington nearly scored on a 2-on-1 break while the Blues had a 5-on-3 advantage -- but the visitors took the lead shortly after 5-on-5 play was restored. Patrik Berglund kept alive the rebound of Chris Stewart's shot, then D'Agostini gathered the puck and beat Vokoun on a wraparound. Hunter was hired Monday to replace Boudreau, who won 200 games faster than any coach in modern NHL history but couldn't find sustained success in the playoffs. Boudreau's attempt to make the players -- including team captain Ovechkin -- more accountable this season didn't fly, and he was dismissed after losing six of eight. The Blues have a new coach of their own, and the Capitals can only hope Hunter gets off to a similar start. St. Louis has allowed only 13 goals in 11 games since Hitchcock took over from Davis Payne on Nov. 7. At least the Capitals put together a better defensive effort. They allowed fewer than three goals for the first time in nine games. NOTES: Washington has not lost to St. Louis at home since Jan. 28, 2003. St. Louis won at Washington for the first time since Jan. 28, 2003. ... Hunter is the second coach to move straight from the Ontario Hockey League to the NHL in the past four seasons. Peter DeBoer, now with the New Jersey Nets, was hired by the Florida Panthers in 2008
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