Washington Loses 11-Round Shootout

Olie Kolzig
Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig leaves his feet to make a glove save Wednesday night. (Richard A. Lipski - The Washington Post)

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Washington Capitals hadn't been in a shootout since March, a span of 35 games. Last night, they made up for lost time against the Florida Panthers.

Stephen Weiss scored the decisive goal in the 11th round, beating goaltender Olie Kolzig with a slick backhander to lift Florida to a 2-1 victory at Verizon Center, the Panthers' fourth straight victory.

For the Capitals, who had a four-on-three power play in overtime but could not beat Panthers standout netminder Tomas Vokoun, it marked their second consecutive loss and seventh in nine games as they remained stuck at the bottom of the NHL standings with 18 points. Dating from last season, Washington has lost seven consecutive games decided in the shootout.

"Coaches love them when you win," interim coach Bruce Boudreau said, "and hate them when you lose."

After Weiss's penalty shot put the Panthers ahead in their longest shootout in franchise history, Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier was stopped by Vokoun to clinch the victory before an announced crowd of 10,526, the second smallest at home this season. Only the crowd that watched Washington's win on Oct. 24 over Tampa Bay was smaller (10,226).

But losing the game wasn't the Capitals' only concern after two players suffered injuries late. High-scoring winger Alexander Semin, who has missed most of the season with a sprained right ankle, hobbled off the ice in the extra session after aggravating the injury, and thus left Washington without one of its best stick-handlers for the shootout. Semin is listed as day-to-day.

Chris Clark, the Capitals' captain, left in the third period with an undisclosed injury. It's not believed to be serious, a team spokesman said, and it's possible Clark will practice today.

If either one misses any time, it could be a devastating blow for a team that can ill afford to waste a single point in the standings considering the deficit it has accrued.

"When you play like that and have a four on three in overtime, you feel you should get two points," Boudreau said. "It's relatively early in the second quarter of the season, but those extra points are really important."

Alex Ovechkin had the game on his stick late in the extra session but fired the puck into Vokoun's glove, which he wears on his right hand. Had that glove been a blocker pad, it might have gone in, Ovechkin said.

"We're disappointed, but we [will] take one point." Ovechkin said.

Although Vokoun earned the victory, the Capitals might not have salvaged a point had Kolzig not been at his best, particularly early. The veteran finished with 28 saves.

The first period was, by far, the Capitals' worst period in four games under Boudreau, who introduced a more aggressive forechecking system in practice on Wednesday.

As a result of the new game plan, and some rearranged forward lines, Washington's players often appeared as though had never seen one another, much less shared the same sheet of ice. Passes missed, shots clanked off the glass, players collided with one another.

"Initially, that's why the first period was a little sloppy," Boudreau said. "They were trying to find out what they were supposed to do. I told them at the start of the game that if you aren't positive of what to do in this situation, take the defensive posture and sit back, rather than attack and get beat. There was a little indecision in the first period and that's why the first 10 minutes were like that."

Richard Zednik made the Capitals pay for their early sloppiness.

The former Capitals winger put the Panthers ahead 1-0 with a power-play goal 4 minutes 49 seconds into the contest. Left alone in the circle, Zednik pounced on a generous rebound and fired underneath Kolzig's glove. It was Zednik's fourth point in three games against his former team.

But the score very easily could have been 3-0 in favor of Florida had it not been for a herculean performance by Kolzig, who turned back 12 shots in the opening period, at least four of which came from point-blank range.

The Capitals finally put one past Vokoun moments later, though. Clark intercepted a poor pass by Florida defenseman Steve Montador at the Panthers' blue line and ripped it past the goalie, who was partially screened by Ovechkin, to tie the score 1-1 at 14:27.

That's how it remained until the shootout. Jokinen, Nathan Horton and Kamin Kreps also made their penalty shots for the Panthers. Meantime, Viktor Kozlov, Nicklas Backstrom and Boyd Gordon solved Vokoun.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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