Early Hat Trick Sinks Capitals

Cory Stillman
The Hurricanes' Cory Stillman gets one of his three goals past Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig. Stillman also had an assist in the game. (Karl B. DeBlaker - AP)

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C., Nov. 5 -- The Carolina Hurricanes brought a league-best 53 goals into Monday night's game, and it took them mere moments to blow the Washington Capitals out of RBC Center with that vaunted attack.

With the game barely 12 minutes old, the fans already were tossing hats onto the ice to salute Cory Stillman, whose fourth career hat trick spurred the Southeast Division leaders' rout of the reeling Capitals.

The 5-0 defeat was Washington's third in a row, ninth in 11 games, and it opened a critical road trip in the worst imaginable manner -- with the team's most lopsided loss this season.

"It's very, very disappointing to start this way," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "We don't have the luxury to get discouraged. We can be disappointed, but we can't be discouraged."

After a quick glance at the score sheet, though, it's tough not to be. The Capitals took two penalties in the opening seven minutes -- and Stillman made them pay both times. They fired 35 shots on Carolina's Cam Ward but came up empty for the second time in three games.

It's been the same recurring issues nearly all season for the Capitals, who continue to struggle offensively (two goals in the past 193 minutes 43 seconds) and can't stop taking undisciplined penalties (18 total the past two games, including a boarding major and a game misconduct for Donald Brashear against the Hurricanes).

"They got two power-play goals quick, and that puts a lot of pressure on us to score, which is something we haven't been doing," defenseman Shaone Morrisonn said. "We just weren't disciplined again, not just the penalties, the whole thing."

Matt Pettinger added: "Obviously, without overstating the obvious, we need to score some goals. Losing is never fun, but we need to right this ship right away. You get too far behind the eight-ball, it's tough to come back in this league.

"We've got a tough game [Tuesday] night in Atlanta, then we're going to play the league-leading Senators. So it's not going to get any easier from here."

After taking a penalty less than two minutes into Monday's game, and nearly costing Carolina an early goal against, Stillman made up for his miscue, and then some.

The 33-year-old's hat trick was the second fastest in club history and basically put the game out of reach just past the midpoint of the opening period. Splendid performances by Eric Staal (two goals) and Ward just added insult to the injured Capitals, who were again without Chris Clark (lacerated ear), Alexander Semin (sprained ankle) and Tom Poti (strained groin muscle).

Poti is the only one of the injured Capitals even with the team at the moment, though it's unclear whether he will be able to play against the Thrashers.


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