By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Eric Fehr's first stint in Washington this season lasted two games. His current one, however, could last much longer if the 21-year-old prospect plays the way he did against the Carolina Hurricanes last night.
Fehr, a 2003 first-round draft pick who was called up from Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League yesterday morning, scored the first goal of his NHL career -- the game-winner, no less -- to help the Capitals clinch a 7-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions at Verizon Center.
"It was awesome," Fehr said. "I kind of stole the puck from [Alexander] Semin, so I knew I had to put that one in so he wouldn't be mad at me."
While it was an unforgettable night for Fehr, a 6-foot-4, 212-pound right wing, he wasn't the only Capital who played a starring role. Semin racked up two goals and an assist, Alex Ovechkin scored one and set up another, and goaltender Olie Kolzig finished with 34 saves as they avenged their 6-2 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., 24 hours earlier.
Another key was Coach Glen Hanlon's decision to rearrange his forward lines and tweak the forechecking system.
"We had lots of bright spots tonight," he said. "It's always nice when you win a hockey game so you don't have to be searching for answers. It makes life more enjoyable."
As for Fehr's performance, Hanlon said: "The commitment to fitness in the summer has really paid off, that was quite noticeable [because] he can win battles. That's his best game as a pro."
Fehr's goal came at 15 minutes 18 seconds of the second period and was the result of a miscue by a Carolina player in a game filled with brutal turnovers for both teams. After defenseman David Tanabe whiffed on his clearing attempt, the puck hit Semin's stick and went to Fehr, who fired it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward (16 saves) to put Washington ahead 4-2.
Thanks to unassisted goals by Semin (two) and Ovechkin in the first period, the Capitals raced out to a 3-0 first-period lead but it was 3-2 at the first intermission.
Semin opened the scoring at 7:56 with the help of a turnover by Hurricanes winger Cory Stillman. The Capitals winger controlled the puck at center ice, blasted into the Carolina zone and fired a wrist shot over Ward's glove.
Ovechkin extended the lead to 2-0 on the power play at 9:53 when he capitalized on a giveaway by Hurricanes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Ovechkin settled it to the side of the goal and snapped it past Ward.
Semin made it 3-0 at 12:41 after stealing the puck from an unsuspecting Erik Cole in the Carolina zone and racing the length of the ice. The slick stick-handler deked the Hurricanes goalie and flipped it over his glove.
Then it was the Capitals' turn to give up the puck. Justin Williams made it 3-2 at 16:59 after center Dainius Zubrus and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn collided deep in the Washington zone.
Cole made it 3-2 moments later after an egregious turnover by Capitals rookie Mike Green, who lost control of the puck in his zone. Chad LaRose snagged it and fired a shot on Kolzig. Cole banged in the rebound.
Fehr's goal was the only tally of the second period and proved to be decisive. Kris Beech, Chris Clark and Brooks Laich (short-handed) also scored for Washington.
Hanlon's lineup changes included putting Matt Pettinger, Boyd Gordon and Brian Sutherby together as the checking line. Fehr, meantime, skated with Laich and Semin, while the top line remained unchanged with Zubrus centering Ovechkin and Clark.
"It was a huge game for us," Sutherby said. "Obviously we've had a few meetings and have been unhappy with the way things have been going. No one likes to lose and maybe we had to switch things up so we changed some lines and had a new game plan."
Capitals Notes: Defenseman Brian Pothier missed his third game after an upper body injury he suffered Jan. 18 in Carolina. . . . Winger Matt Bradley missed his second game for personal reasons but might rejoin the team in Ottawa on Tuesday. . . . Ovechkin extended his points streak to 11 games. . . . Clark's goal was his 21st, a career high. . . . Washington's penalty-killing streak ended at 27 consecutive kills in the third period.