Caps' Good Fortune Continues

Matt Pettinger has the puck inadvertently go off his skate and past Panthers goalie Alex Auld for a first-period goal.
Matt Pettinger has the puck inadvertently go off his skate and past Panthers goalie Alex Auld for a first-period goal. (Hans Deryk - Reuters)
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

SUNRISE, Fla., Nov. 13 -- The statistics said the Washington Capitals were outplayed.

The scoreboard said it didn't matter one bit.

The Capitals did not so much earn this victory as unwrap it, a fitting development in a season that has so far exceeded expectation and occasionally defied reason. Their 4-1 defeat of the Florida Panthers on Monday night at the BankAtlantic Center resulted as much from pure luck and sweet fortune as textbook execution or sound hockey.

Already having matched their best start in 15 years, the Capitals won for the fourth time in five games and beat Florida for the second time this year -- a feat they failed to achieve in eight tries last season.

The Caps got a goal that was expected (from the stick of Alex Ovechkin) and one that wasn't (from the skate of Matt Pettinger), while adding two that can only be classified as gift-wrapped (both from Dainius Zubrus).

Meantime, Washington goalie Olie Kolzig stoically saved 44 shots, allowing only one power-play goal to squeak past him.

"It's exciting," Pettinger said. "It's new for a lot of us who've been here the last few years, that feeling. We're confident. We know we've got a great goaltender and we know we're going to score goals."

Even, apparently, when they haven't worked all that hard for them. Zubrus's first goal was the clincher, and his second, the icing. Neither required breaking much of a sweat. With just under six minutes remaining and the Capitals trying to take advantage of a five-on-three power play, Zubrus wristed a shot from the right circle that gave Washington a 3-1 lead. With 30 seconds to play, he poked another into an empty net.

"Right now, we are looking at every game like we can win it," Zubrus said. "Last year was a little bit harder. Even our best wasn't really good enough."

That confidence might be breeding the occasional lucky bounce. In the first period, after Washington had been outshot, outpassed and outplayed, the Capitals looked frustrated enough to try to kick in a shot. And so they did.

Pettinger redirected a rebound with his left skate blade into the net with just under two minutes left as Florida goalie Alexander Auld lunged helplessly. A referee's review of the bizarre score determined that Pettinger's redirection was as inadvertent as it was accurate -- Pettinger was skidding and falling past the net as the rebound of his own shot struck his skate -- allowing the goal to stand.

"I didn't kick it," Pettinger said. "I kind of got lucky, but I'll take it."

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