Capitals Break Free on Semin's Shot
Weary Team Gets 1st Shootout Win Of the Season: Capitals 2, Islanders 1

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 5, 2007; E04

Alex Ovechkin didn't score yesterday. In fact, the Washington Capitals all-star didn't register a point for the second consecutive contest, and misfired in the shootout.

But none of that mattered to him. All that did was the final score: Capitals 2, New York Islanders 1.

"Finally," Ovechkin said, smiling.

It was unclear which streak Ovechkin was referring to, Washington's three consecutive losses or its five-game drought in shootouts this season. Either way, Alexander Semin and Olie Kolzig made sure that both became history.

Semin scored the only goal in the shootout and Kolzig made 31 saves in a contest that, at times, lacked energy and flow at Verizon Center. Each team was fatigued from playing the previous afternoon and there were five delays, totaling nearly 20 minutes, for repairs to the plexiglass surrounding the rink.

But, in the jubilant Capitals locker room afterward, no one was too concerned about style points, not after dropping eight of their previous 10 games and, for now, being out of the playoff picture.

"When it comes down to the end of the year, these extra points you get here from winning [in the shootout] could be vital," Kolzig said. "Hopefully, it's a sign of positive things for us."

Only 24 hours earlier, the Capitals emerged from Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh with their heads hanging after being shut out by the Penguins. Ovechkin was so frustrated he broke his stick, jammed it into a trash can and slammed the locker room door. The slump had begun to weigh on everyone.

And for a while yesterday, it appeared as though their misery might continue. Ovechkin was limited to one shot in regulation, the power play struggled again (it finished 0-4 for the second straight game), the Islanders scored short-handed and their goaltender, Rick DiPietro (30 saves), was dominant.

The Capitals fired 13 shots on DiPietro as they unsuccessfully pressed for the go-ahead goal in the third period. They also had several scoring chances in overtime, including a golden opportunity by Semin, who stole the puck from Islanders defenseman Sean Hill. But the Capitals winger lost control of the puck as he tried to wrap it around.

He got even in the shootout. Having missed his three previous career attempts, Semin backed DiPietro deep into the crease and flipped a backhander into the upper corner.

DiPietro stopped Ovechkin and Dainius Zubrus, but it didn't matter because Kolzig was up to the task at the other end. The Capitals veteran thwarted Miroslav Satan and Jason Blake, and Viktor Kozlov fired wide of the net.

"It's tough any time you lose that extra point," said Islanders Coach Ted Nolan, whose team is 4-0-3 in its past seven games. "Sometimes they go in, and sometimes they don't. We're happy with the point."

Matt Pettinger's first goal since Jan. 13 staked the Capitals to a 1-0 lead 2 minutes 52 seconds into the first period. The speedy winger banged in a rebound of Richard Zednik's wraparound, which was stopped by DiPietro.

Then as the opening period ended, former longtime Capitals defenseman Brendan Witt was sent to the penalty box for slashing center Brian Sutherby, giving Washington a power play to start the second.

But instead of extending their lead, they yielded a short-handed goal to Mike Sillinger, who finished a cross-ice pass from Trent Hunter, 27 seconds in. It marked the eighth short-handed goal against the Capitals this season.

"Anytime you can squeak out a few points, it's good for your confidence," Pettinger said. "Obviously, Olie was awesome for us again and came through for us in the shootout."

Capitals Notes: Defenseman Lawrence Nycholat and forwards Kris Beech and Ben Clymer were healthy scratches. Clymer had played in all 53 games. . . .

Backup goaltender Brent Johnson missed his third consecutive game because of an undisclosed injury. He was replaced on the bench by Frederic Cassivi, who was recalled from Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League. Defensemen Bryan Muir and John Erskine (each has a broken foot) and Brian Pothier (concussion) remain on injured reserve. . . .

Islanders captain Alexei Yashin missed the game with knee tendinitis. . . .

Witt returned to Washington as a visiting player for the first time.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company