Golden Opportunity Is Lost As Capitals Lose in Ottawa

Senators 3, Capitals 2

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 31, 2007; Page E01

OTTAWA, Jan. 30 -- Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals had every opportunity to upstage the powerful Ottawa Senators on their home ice Tuesday night. But the all-star winger and his teammates couldn't squeeze the puck past seldom-used backup Martin Gerber when it mattered most and came up short, 3-2, at Scotiabank Place.

Gerber, making his first start in three weeks, stopped 35 shots, including all but one of the 14 he faced in the third period. The goaltender also turned aside 15 shots on the power play.

Dany Heatley
Dany Heatley gets the puck past Capitals defenseman Steve Eminger and goaltender Olie Kolzig to score in the first period. (Fred Chartrand - AP)

Still, the Capitals refused to single out a hot goaltending effort for their sixth loss in eight games. Instead, several players, including Ovechkin and linemate Dainius Zubrus, insisted they were to blame.

"Gerber played very well today," said Ovechkin, who notched his 32nd goal and finished with seven shots on net. "We have lots of moments, but we didn't score. If we want to win the game we have to score goals."

Washington even got some help from an unlikely source when enforcer Donald Brashear made it a 3-2 game 3 minutes 2 seconds into the final frame. But the more offensively gifted Capitals around him couldn't get the equalizer, despite a final flurry that included back-to-back power plays and another push with six attackers in the last seconds.

"I'm not taking anything away from [Gerber], but at the same time I don't think we shot the puck all the times when we should have," said Zubrus. "Myself included. I had two opportunities. On the five-on-three, I couldn't get over the pad and in the third period I missed on a breakaway. But I just couldn't finish it."

So Dany Heatley (goal and an assist) and the Senators skated off with another victory (they are 13-3-1 in their last 17 games). The Capitals, meantime, departed for Florida for Thursday's game against the Panthers desperately trying to keep up in the race for the eighth and final playoff berth.

Capitals captain Chris Clark said another problem was the team's weak start.

"The second and third period was a solid effort on our part," Clark said. "I don't think we came out as strong as we could have in the first period."

The Senators scored twice on their first nine shots and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a pair of fortuitous bounces.

Daniel Alfredsson opened the scoring at 9:51 with a wrist shot from just inside the blueline that slithered through a screen and tapped Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn on its way past Olie Kolzig, who was solid if not spectacular in making 35 saves.

Jason Spezza scored the Senators' second goal at 16:53 when he slipped loose of Capitals defenseman Lawrence Nycholat and banged in a deflected shot by teammate Peter Schaefer.

Although the Capitals registered only six shots in the opening period, three of them were glorious scoring chances. But Gerber robbed Ovechkin twice and Alexander Semin once to keep the Senators on top.

The second period went much the same way, with Gerber frustrating the visitors time and again.

But Ovechkin finally broke through at 9:04 when he scored while the teams skated four a side. The star winger's shot hit a skate in front and came right back to him. He made the most of his second attempt, firing the puck past Gerber from the slot to make it a 2-1 game and provide his team with a glimmer of hope.

Their hope was short-lived, however.

Heatley scored his 31st 1 minute 27 seconds later on the power play to restore the Senators' two-goal cushion, 3-1. Heatley's first shot hit Kolzig in the chest, but the goalie was unable to hold on to the rebound, which went straight back to Heatley, who jammed the puck in.

Washington's chance to get back into the contest came moments later. With Heatley and Schaefer in the penalty box, the Capitals had a five-on-three advantage for 51 seconds. They generated two quality opportunities, but Gerber gobbled up both to keep it a two-goal game entering the third period.

"We had all kinds of chances on the power play," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "But there were some good saves by Gerber and we missed some open nets. Sometimes it's not your night. But you can't fault anyone for not doing what they were supposed to do."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company