Capitals Are Unable to Stomach the Devils

Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur makes one of his 31 saves during Friday's 4-3 win over the Capitals.
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur makes one of his 31 saves during Friday's 4-3 win over the Capitals. (Bill Kostroun - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 30, 2006

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 29 -- Already missing four players because of injury, the Washington Capitals received more bad news Friday morning.

Eight more players had come down with a stomach virus overnight, and three of them weren't going to be able to play. The patchwork lineup didn't seem to stand a chance against the Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey Devils.

But that's not exactly how things unfolded. The Capitals put forth a gutsy effort and fell just short, 4-3, at Continental Airlines Arena for their third consecutive defeat.

"We certainly had a depleted lineup," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "We had some young kids playing. We're certainly not happy with losing, but you certainly can't fault anybody."

New Jersey center Scott Gomez scored twice and set up another while goaltender Martin Brodeur made 31 stops, including 13 in the frantic final frame to clinch a victory that was anything but certain.

Devils captain Patrik Elias stretched the Devils' lead to 4-2 at 6 minutes 43 seconds of the third period, snapping a shot past Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig (30 saves) from an almost impossibly tight angle.

Washington wouldn't surrender. Alexander Semin scored as the Capitals skated with six attackers with 46 seconds remaining, pulling them within 4-3. But Brodeur snuffed out one final chance in the last seconds, turning away a shot by Lawrence Nycholat.

"We played hard," said Nycholat, one of the recent minor league callups, who got his first NHL goal in the first period at age 27. "They just took advantage of our mistakes."

The fact that the Capitals, who were forced to call up three players from Hershey of the American Hockey League to fill the roster, managed to keep it so close for so long was shocking.

Out were forwards Matt Pettinger and Brian Sutherby and defenseman Steve Eminger.

Three others -- right wing Chris Clark and defensemen Mike Green and Brian Pothier -- showed symptoms of the virus before the opening faceoff but skated anyway.

It's unclear, Hanlon said afterward, what the team will do for Saturday night's game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. But he did not rule out the possibilities of more call-ups.

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