Capitals Lose Ninth Straight

Olie Kolzig, Phil Kessel
Boston's Phil Kessel rudely welcomes Olie Kolzig back from injury as Kessel scores the game-winning goal in the shootout. (Winslow Townson - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2007

BOSTON, March 15 -- Washington Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig didn't have to come back. Not with 12 games remaining, the playoffs out of reach and the losses piling up. The 36-year-old easily could have spent the remainder of the season rehabilitating his injured left knee.

But Kolzig's teammates needed him, and the Capitals' longest-tenured player was determined to be there for them.

Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden, Kolzig was there for them 36 times, to be exact, and Chris Clark scored three goals. But neither player's performance was enough to prevent the penalty-prone Capitals from suffering their ninth consecutive loss, 4-3, in a shootout. The defeat dropped the Capitals to 1-11 in games decided in the tiebreaker.

"We have to learn how to win hockey games," said Kolzig, who had been sidelined the previous 13 games with a torn medial collateral ligament. "We had a 3-0 lead. It's very frustrating. There was just a fine line tonight."

Capitals left wing Alexander Semin had Boston goaltender Tim Thomas (31 saves) beat in overtime, but his backhander rang off the inside of the goal post. The Bruins had their chances, too, firing four shots on Kolzig during a power play in the final seconds of the extra session, including one by Zdeno Chara that hobbled the Capitals' netminder.

In the shootout, Patrice Bergeron and Phil Kessel each scored, while Alex Ovechkin registered the Capitals' only goal.

"This is one of the tougher ones, especially having a 3-0 lead and not coming out with two points," Clark said. "That was probably the hardest one to swallow."

Clark completed his second career hat trick at 17 minutes 3 seconds of the second period when the rugged right wing ripped a wrist shot over Thomas's glove -- short-handed, no less -- to put the Capitals ahead 3-0.

It should have been enough. But it wasn't.

Bruins left wing Marco Sturm scored on the power play 1:21 after Clark's third goal to pull the Boston to within 3-1.

The Capitals kept committing penalties. And the Bruins kept capitalizing on them.

Brandon Bochenksi and Bergeron each scored power-play goals 1:05 apart in the opening minutes of the third period to even the score at 3. Bochenksi's goal came on a five-on-three advantage for the Bruins, who were in desperate need of a victory. Boston moved to within five points of the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders, who are tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

"Considering the situation, it doesn't get any better than this," Bruins Coach Dave Lewis said. "We were down 3-0 and found a way to win the hockey game."

The Capitals, meantime, were left wondering how they let another slip away.

"We want to win so badly," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "But when we were sitting in eighth place and losing games in the shootout, in November and December, those were the ones that really hurt."

Clark's first goal came in typical fashion for the gritty winger, who fired a rebound off a skate in front past Thomas only 1:21 into the game to put the Capitals ahead 1-0.

Kolzig was key in stopping keeping Boston scoreless later in the first period when he turned aside four shots during a four minute power play for the Bruins.

Clark fired a pass from Semin past Thomas with 15 seconds remaining in the first period to put the Capitals ahead 2-0. But a string of bad penalties -- they took 10 in all -- and the inability to close out games in the tiebreaker means they'll be looking to prevent the losing streak (0-6-3) from reaching 10 Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Capitals Note: Winger Ben Clymer left in the second period with a groin muscle strain. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. . . . General Manager George McPhee said he plans to re-sign pending restricted free agent defenseman Milan Jurcina during the offseason.

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