Capitals Fall In a Game Of Streaks

alex ovechkin - capitals - black hawks
The Blackhawks build a three-goal lead Tuesday but need an overtime goal from Kyle Calder to topple Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, 4-3, to end a 10-game losing streak. (Joe Giza - Reuters)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

For the first 30 minutes, the Washington Capitals were well on their way to an embarrassing loss at home. For the next 30, they appeared to be headed for a stunning comeback against the similarly struggling Chicago Blackhawks.

It was emblematic of the first half of the Capitals' season, which wrapped up last night and can be summed up in two words: wildly inconsistent.

The way the game ended, a 4-3 loss in overtime on a fluky goal at MCI Center, also seemed a fitting way to close out Game 41. It was the Capitals' fifth loss in a row (0-3-2), and, more tellingly, it was their 23rd one-goal game of the season. Equally lowly Chicago, meantime, stopped a 10-game losing streak.

"We didn't get the win, but it doesn't feel like a loss," Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig said. "It was a good show of character on our part to come back. But at some point, we have to start winning these overtime games and shootouts."

Blackhawks winger Kyle Calder scored the game-winner off his leg as he and Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn skidded into Kolzig at 2 minutes 1 second of the extra session. After a lengthy review by the officials, as fans and Capitals' players waited anxiously, the goal was allowed to stand.

"I don't know what to do in this league anymore," Kolzig said of the play. "Guys just crash the net. They come full-blast through. What do you do there? How do you defend that? It's getting old."

Alex Ovechkin scored his 26th goal of the season and logged an assist on Brian Sutherby's game-tying goal early in the third period. It helped the Capitals procure a point that seemed out of reach midway through the middle frame.

Sutherby's score capped the Capitals' comeback from a three-goal deficit at 3:27 of the third period. Ovechkin's shot was stopped by Adam Munro, but the Blackhawks' goaltender lost track of it. By the time Munro (34 saves) located the puck, Sutherby was jamming it into the back of the net to tie the game at 3.

Ovechkin, one of the few bright spots for the Capitals in the first half, recorded a point for the ninth time in 10 games, a stretch in which he has 17 points.

Regulation was a perfect example of the inconsistency that has plagued the Capitals. Sometimes it is from game to game, sometimes it is from period to period. Last night, it was the latter.

After falling behind 3-0 early in the second period, the Capitals' work ethic and energy -- traits for which they have become known -- returned. Three straight goals later, it was anybody's game.

"I never lose faith in our group," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "They have set the standard for never quitting, so we've come back on a number of occasions. [But] we should never get in a situation where we have to have a valiant effort to come back. We have to execute a little better at the start and not get ourselves in that position."

Matthew Barnaby gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at 8:00 of the first period. He knocked in a cross-crease pass from Michael Holmqvist, who threaded the puck between the skates of Capitals defensemen Brendan Witt and Jamie Heward.

Radim Vrbata and Jaroslav Spacek scored back-to-back goals in the opening three minutes of the second period to give the Blackhawks the three-goal lead. Vrbata's score was a one-timer on the power play, and Spacek's was a bit of a fluke. Spacek's slap shot rebounded off Kolzig's leg pad, bounced up and off Heward and back into the Capitals' net.

The building fell silent, and the Blackhawks appeared to switch on cruise control. That was a big mistake.

Witt caught the Blackhawks on a bad line change, and his first goal of the season trimmed the Capitals' deficit to 3-1. The defenseman skated the puck into Chicago's zone and unleashed a long wrist shot that slipped past Munro at 11:19 of the middle frame.

Less than two minutes later, Ovechkin stole the puck away from Barnaby and blasted a slap shot between Munro's pads to make it 3-2, which is how the third period began.

Capitals Notes:Team captain Jeff Halpern (knee) missed his fourth consecutive game. He could return tomorrow in Dallas. . . . LW Matt Pettinger (flu) and D Ivan Majesky were scratched. Chicago was without Tuomo Ruutu (ankle surgery) and Nikolai Khabibulin (groin).


© 2006 The Washington Post Company