Caps Throw Cold Water On NHL's Hottest Team

Viktor Kozlov, Alex Ovechkin
Viktor Kozlov, left, celebrates with teammate Alex Ovechkin after scoring in the second period. Ovechkin assisted on the goal. (Chris Wattie - Reuters)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 9, 2007

OTTAWA, Nov. 8 -- All signs pointed to the Washington Capitals getting run out of Scotiabank Place.

The Capitals had lost four straight. The Ottawa Senators had won eight in a row. Washington was in last place in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa sat atop the standings, off to the best start in NHL history.

But after withstanding a scintillating Senators scoring chance in the opening seconds, Olie Kolzig and the Capitals put together their most complete performance of the season and stunned the Senators, 4-1, before an almost silent sellout crowd.

It wasn't just Kolzig's 27-save effort that delivered Washington its biggest win of the season. The Capitals also received strong games from rookie Nicklas Backstrom (first career goal), Viktor Kozlov (a goal and two assists), Alex Ovechkin (goal, assist and 10 shots on goal) and Tomas Fleischmann (goal, six shots).

The offensive outburst ended a slump in which the club had scored only three goals in the previous four games. Coach Glen Hanlon said it was a long time coming.

"This is just an extension of what I've been telling everybody," he said. "We didn't play any better tonight than we have in a lot of the games in the last six or seven. What happened was the pucks went in. We were rewarded. We're hoping that this is something that will continue."

The victory sent the Capitals home with three huge points in the standings from their three-game road swing, not to mention an enormous confidence boost.

The trip started with a 5-0 loss to the Hurricanes on Monday. That was followed by a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in overtime Tuesday in Atlanta. Considering those losses, and the fragile state of the team's psyche, there was little indication the Capitals would turn it around against the league's best team.

"Going into this road trip, I said that if we could get three points we could look at the trip as being successful," Kolzig said. "We did it the hard way after losing the first one in Carolina. I thought we deserved better in Atlanta. Then tonight we played fantastic."

Kolzig's counterpart, Ray Emery (31 saves) said: "No one had their best game. I don't know if we took them lightly. You tell yourself not to take them lightly because you realize they have some big names over there. If we did take them lightly, we shouldn't have."

It was an unfamiliar position for the Senators, who lost for only the second time this season, and the first time since Carolina beat them here, 5-3, on Oct. 11.

"We win a game, finally," Ovechkin said, wearing a wide smile. "It's a great win. We beat a great team. We played tonight great defensively, and we finally score on our chances."

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