By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2006
ST. PAUL, Minn., Oct. 12 -- Washington Capitals goaltender Brent Johnson did not look like a backup against one of the NHL's most imposing lineups. And he certainly deserved better than a 3-2 shootout loss to Mikko Koivu and the Minnesota Wild.
Johnson, in his first start, sparkled during regulation and overtime. But he wasn't able to thwart Koivu, who scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Wild to its fourth consecutive win before a sold-out Xcel Energy Center.
"I wanted to win," Johnson said. "That's how I look at it. I'm definitely disappointed in the outcome, but at the same time, we played a great game against a good team. No one in here is hanging their head."
Wild goaltender Manny Fernandez settled down after a shaky start to make 24 saves. He then stopped Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Richard Zednik in the shootout to clinch the win.
But the goalie garnering most of the praise after the game was Johnson, who limited the Wild to a pair of power-play goals on 38 shots. He turned aside all 12 attempts he faced in the third period and four in overtime. Minnesota had four power plays in the final 20 minutes and 10 for the game.
"Johnny played great," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "Even in the shootout, stopping two out of three should be enough. He's played well since the [Olympic] break last [February]."
Johnson indeed appears to have picked up where he left off last spring, when he was one of the league's hottest goaltenders, going 4-1-1 in his last six starts. It's important for the Capitals because Johnson could get 22 starts, or more, behind 36-year-old No. 1, Olie Kolzig.
An early goal by Dainius Zubrus highlighted a strong for period for the Capitals. Zubrus, after taking a cross ice pass from line mate Chris Clark, snapped a shot from the top of the circle over Fernandez's blocker glove at 4 minutes 26 seconds. Ovechkin was credited with the other assist.
The Wild pulled even at 1 on a power play goal by Kim Johnsson at 13:18. The smooth-skating defenseman pinched in deep and banged in a tightly threaded pass across the Capitals' crease from Koivu.
Semin restored the visitors' lead with a power play goal of his own. The left wing side-stepped a defender inside the circle, then cut to the slot where he rifled a shot past Fernandez's catching glove.
It was Semin's fifth goal in three games, but it wasn't enough.
Johnsson's second power play goal came at 6:56 of the second period and knotted it at 2. The defenseman's chip shot from the top of the circle appeared to catch the Capitals' screened goaltender off guard.
Semin nearly got his second goal of the game late in the second period, but he fired high on a clean breakaway.
In the shootout, Ovechkin fired into Fernandez's left pad. Semin couldn't put a backhanded attempt in and Zednik's shot found only leather. Johnson, meantime, stopped Pavol Demitra, but couldn't extend his skate far enough to keep Koivu's shot out of the net.
"Nothing happened, I just missed," Ovechkin said. "We're disappointed, but one point is one point. You never know what [will] happen in a shootout."
Capitals Notes: The NHL's general managers voted 29-1 to outlaw mirrored visors, like the one Ovechkin sported to much fanfare last season, Capitals General Manager George McPhee said. At least one goaltender complained the reflective visor gave Ovechkin a competitive advantage.
Marketing executives, meantime, complained it obscured Ovechkin's face, thus masking his expressions. "I think players should be able to wear whatever they want," McPhee said. "At some point, we're going have to come up with some sort of [official] ruling." . . .
Winger Matt Bradley came off injured reserve and made his season debut against the Wild.