Capitals Come Up Short-Handed

Jeff Halpern
Alex Ovechkin picks up his 99th point in the first period on an assist to Jeff Halpern, pictured. (Toni L. Sandys - The Washington Post)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 8, 2006

If ever an entire hockey game could be summed up in one statistic, it was last night's meeting between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals.

The Hurricanes ended up with three short-handed goals -- two came on one second period penalty -- and as a result, they also wound up with a 4-3 victory at Verizon Center.

It tied a Washington franchise record for the most allowed in game; it set a record for Carolina, which moved into a first-place tie atop the Eastern Conference with the idle Ottawa Senators.

"It stands out because it was the difference in the game," Capitals captain Jeff Halpern said. "With the exception of the last one, it wasn't like we were giving up good scoring chances. One was a lucky break. But, still, it was three short-handed goals. They are a backbreaker to begin with."

The win was the Hurricanes' third in the span of five days over the Capitals, whose seven-game point streak came to an end. But not before some serious suspense in the waning moments.

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn's first goal as a Capital cut his team's deficit to 4-2, then Brian Willsie's tally with 1 minute 32 seconds remaining made it a one-goal game. But Carolina goalie Cam Ward made sure they never got they equalizer. He finished with a career-high 39 saves; Olie Kolzig made 28 for the Capitals.

There was some confusion inside the building during the final frantic moments. Willsie's goal was at first announced over the public address system as belonging to Ovechkin, which sent the announced crowd of 16,029 into a frenzy. It would have been the Russian rookie's 49th goal and 100th point. But Ovechkin, who was standing in front of the net, did not touch the puck on the way in.

Instead, Ovechkin, who did have an assist, will take 48 goals and 99 points into tonight's game against the New York Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y. Ovechkin's goal drought has reached five games, the second longest of his career. He is seeking to become only the second rookie in NHL history to record 50 goals and 100 points. Teemu Selanne had 76 goals and 132 points for Winnipeg in 1992-93.

"Three short-handed goals against," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "We've said all along that five-on-five we can compete with most teams."

The loss might not be the only bad news for the Capitals.

Defenseman Ivan Majesky may face a fine or suspension after initiating knee-to-knee contact with Carolina defenseman Aaron Ward. Majesky stuck out his leg as the players' paths crossed near center ice, with Majesky's right knee catching Ward's. The Hurricanes' player went hurtling to the ice, where he remained for several moments before being helped to the locker room. No penalty was called. Ward did not return.

With less than two minutes remaining, Frantisek Kaberle suffered a gruesome cut on his face when his face collided with the end boards. He was still being stitched up 45 minutes after the game had ended.

Halpern's power-play goal at 13:48 of the first period gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead. It was his fourth goal in five games.

Washington nursed that lead into the second period. But a couple of unfortunate bounces turned things in the Hurricanes' favor. Carolina was short-handed when a shot by Kaberle deflected off of a Washington player, then deflected off the skate of Carolina's Kevyn Adams and into the net at 3:47.

Nineteen seconds later, with the Hurricanes still short-handed, Ovechkin was carrying the puck across the neutral zone when Rod Brind'Amour caused him to lose an edge and fall to the ice. The Hurricanes' Justin Williams scooped up the puck, raced in on Kolzig alone and beat him between the leg pads.

Eric Staal extended the Hurricanes' lead to 3-1 with a power-play goal at 11:45. Then, 44 seconds into the third period, Williams's second short-handed goal of the game -- he finished off a two on one with Brind'Amour after a turnover at the Capitals blue line -- staked the Hurricanes to a 4-1 lead. It turned out to be just enough.

"It's a first, maybe," Capitals defenseman Steve Eminger said when asked if he recalled ever seeing three short-handed goals in a game. "You can call them lucky. But we shouldn't have put ourselves in that position."

Capitals Note: It was the fourth time Washington had surrendered three short-handed goals in franchise history, first since 1983.

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