Undermanned Caps Fall

St. Louis Blues defenseman Steve Wagner, left, battles for the puck with Alex Ovechkin during the first period on Saturday.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Steve Wagner, left, battles for the puck with Alex Ovechkin during the first period on Saturday. (Kyle Ericson - AP Photo)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 28, 2007

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 27 -- The Washington Capitals started the game short-handed, missing mainstays Chris Clark and Tom Poti. By the end of the first period, they also were without Alexander Semin, their second-most dangerous offensive threat.

Despite being without three of their most important players, the Capitals put a scare into the St. Louis Blues, rallying behind the first multi-goal game of defenseman Mike Green's career. But the depleted lineup ultimately was too much to overcome at Scottrade Center, and Keith Tkachuk and the Blues escaped with a 4-3 victory.

The loss was the Capitals' second in 48 hours and sixth in the past seven games as they continue to plummet through the Eastern Conference standings after a 3-0 start.

Following the game, the veterans held a players-only meeting that lasted about 20 minutes.

"We just cleared the air about a few things," Capitals winger Matt Pettinger said. "We're taking too many penalties right now. Whether they are in the offensive zone, or defensive zone. And just confidence. We had a swagger at the start of the year. We have to get that back. [The meeting] was good."

The news regarding Semin, however, wasn't. He injured the sprained right ankle that caused him to miss six of the Capitals' first seven games in the final minutes of the opening period. It wasn't immediately known whether he'll be able to play in Toronto on Monday.

The status of Poti and Clark for the Maple Leafs game also is unknown. Poti hopes to play, but the strained groin muscle that has caused him to miss the past two games has been slow to respond to treatment. Clark, meantime, did not travel with the team after suffering a gruesome ear injury when he was struck by a slap shot Friday night. He might meet the team in Toronto.

If all three are out Monday, the Capitals, who are averaging a paltry 2.4 goals per game, could be in for another difficult night.

When Brent Johnson's name was announced as the starting goaltender Saturday, he was welcomed back by a soft round of applause and some scattered cheers, an acknowledgment of the three seasons he spent in St. Louis before being traded in 2005.

Less welcoming, though, were the Blues, who were outshot 26-18 for the game but struck twice on their first four shots.

Brad Boyes (two goals) scored 45 seconds into the game after Tkachuk picked off an errant pass in the neutral zone, then threaded a pass to Boyes, who streaked down the middle of the ice in between Capitals defensemen Brian Pothier and Jeff Schultz. Boyes beat Johnson over the glove.

Eric Brewer made it 2-0 at 8 minutes 58 seconds when the Blues defenseman finished off a two-on-one with Tkachuk.


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