Caps Leave It All on Ice After Team's Meltdown

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Alexander Semin's peculiar penalty, the tense postgame meeting, Alex Ovechkin's tantrum -- it was all left behind in the visitors' locker room in Tampa, Washington Capitals veteran Olie Kolzig said yesterday.

"What needed to be said was said on Saturday," Kolzig said after a spirited practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "That's it. Everyone came here with a great outlook, and we had a great practice. It's water under the bridge."

The upbeat mood yesterday contrasted with the anger and frustration that enveloped the struggling Capitals following their forgettable 5-2 loss to the Lightning.

In that game, Semin was in the penalty box for inexplicably picking up and hurling the puck when the decisive goal was scored. Semin was benched for the entire third period, and Ovechkin, his closest friend and linemate, later destroyed his stick and iPod after a closed-door discussion among the players.

Several issues were addressed, including the recent rash of selfish penalties and costly turnovers. Semin, who ranks ninth in the NHL with 45 minor infractions, was singled out, and Ovechkin, who has two goals the past nine games, took some of the criticism personally.

"I was" angry, Ovechkin said. "Not the whole season. Just this game. That's it. It's over. . . . All the time I'm looking forward. This is emotion. It happens to any player. Sometimes you have bad emotions."

Asked whether he had spoken to Semin, whose English is limited, about throwing the puck, Ovechkin said: "He understands his mistake. He said sorry and that he doesn't want to do it again."

Kolzig and Coach Glen Hanlon said they were not surprised by Ovechkin's stick and iPod smashing episode, considering his competitive nature.

"It shows that you care," Kolzig said. "It shows that you are mad. If it didn't make you mad, then you have some issues. It was like looking at myself in the mirror."

Then Kolzig cracked a smile, and added: "It was a pretty expensive snap. But it's not like he can't afford it."

Hanlon said: "We're competitive people, and Ovie is likely the most competitive person. I appreciate the fact that he stays competitive right down to the end. I would be every disappointed if he just took his equipment off after every game and said, 'Let's just get these last three games over with, so I can go to the world championships.' "

The Capitals, who have dropped 20 of the past 23 games, including six straight, have two games remaining after hosting the Florida Panthers tonight at Verizon Center.

"We want to be professionals and try to win hockey games," Kolzig said, "and do everything you can to make yourself a better hockey player and get ready for next season. You can't look at yourself in the mirror and call yourself a good professional if you don't approach these games the same way as Game One or Game 20. There's nothing on the line except pride. But pride is a pretty big thing."

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