By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 9, 2006
The discussion in the Washington Capitals' locker room after last night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, oddly enough, centered on a pair of players who have only one goal this season -- Ivan Majesky and Brendan Witt.
Majesky, a lumbering defenseman with limited offensive ability, scored his first goal as a member of the Capitals , the score coming on a shot taken 145 feet from net -- short-handed no less -- to help the Capitals defeat the NHL's worst team for the first time in four tries, 6-3, at Verizon Center.
Witt, meantime, was held out of the lineup, a sign he will likely be dealt before today's 3 p.m. trade deadline. The stay-at-home defenseman participated in the pregame skate yesterday morning, but was a healthy scratch at game time. It was unclear whether a deal for Witt was pending or if General Manager George McPhee was still entertaining offers.
Witt "made a difficult situation very easy," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "He played extremely hard every game. He's made a decision for his family and his career and we respect that. We just want to make sure that when we play against him, that we beat him."
Los Angeles, long considered a prime destination for Witt, can probably be ruled out. Late yesterday, the Kings acquired forward Mark Parrish and defenseman Brent Sopel from the New York Islanders. Scratch New Jersey, too. The Devils acquired Ken Klee from Toronto.
Nashville and Vancouver appear to be the leading candidates to land Witt, but the New York Rangers are also said to be interested. Witt left without commenting.
Majesky, however, stayed around to talk -- and laugh -- about his fluky goal, which came late in the first period and staked the Capitals to a 3-1 lead in front of an announced crowd of 14,375.
The 6-foot-4, 231-pound defenseman, who has found himself a healthy scratch on occasion this season, appeared to simply be trying to clear the puck so his teammates could make a line change. He flipped the puck up and over everyone. It landed in the slot and bounced several times before reaching Sebastien Caron, who reached with his catching glove but couldn't keep it from sneaking into the net.
"It was a lucky bounce," Majesky said, smiling from ear to ear. "It went in, so that's all it's about. The goalie, I don't know, he just went out and the puck went in."
Penguins Coach Michel Therrien said: "Sebastien gave up three bad goals. It's tough to win when you give up one bad goal, and we gave up three bad goals."
Last night also marked the fourth meeting between the dueling rookie phenoms -- Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. The game was televised nationwide in Canada, but the matchup was overshadowed by the prospect of deadline deals.
Ovechkin scored for the seventh game in a row, breaking his own franchise record for goals in consecutive games for a rookie. It was his 42nd of the season and 18th on the power play, which equals the franchise record for power play goals scored by a rookie, set by Chris Valentine in 1981-82. His goal came at 5 minutes 54 seconds of the third period and stretched Washington's lead to 5-3.
Crosby, meantime, had only one assist, after scoring in each of the previous three meetings. Crosby entered the season as the odds on favorite to claim the Calder Trophy as the league's top first-year player, but the award appears likely to go the Ovechkin, who also had two assists and continues to pull away in the rookie points race.
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead 2:03 into the game on a goal by Colby Armstrong, who put the puck into a empty net after Olie Kolzig (22 saves) steered the puck onto Crosby's stick. Crosby zipped the cross- crease pass to Armstrong.
The Capitals' Ben Clymer tied the game 2:11 later, and Chris Clark gave Washington a 2-1 lead at 11:10.