Calls Don't Go Capitals' Way in Loss

Alex Ovechkin, left, celebrates his first goal with teammate Michael Nylander.
Alex Ovechkin, left, celebrates his first goal with teammate Michael Nylander. (Gerry Broome - AP Photo)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 1, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C., Nov. 30 -- Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin thrust his arms into the air. Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward turned his head and peeked into the net.

But Ovechkin's blast -- like so many Capitals attempts Friday night at RBC Center -- came up short with 53 seconds remaining, allowing the Hurricanes to escape with a wild and controversial 4-3 victory.

Washington had two goals disallowed, Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour scored one with an apparent high stick, and Ovechkin netted two for the Capitals and one, accidentally, for the Hurricanes.

It was that kind of night for the NHL's worst team, which has lost three straight after opening 2-0 under interim coach Bruce Boudreau.

"We get two goals called off, we put one in our own net, one bounces over our head," Boudreau said. "When things are going bad, the only thing you can do is work harder. Eventually it evens out, that's what they say."

Ovechkin's second goal of the game and 19th of the season got the Capitals within 3-2 only 32 seconds into the third period. But 3 minutes 15 seconds later, Washington's leading scorer accidentally tipped a rebound out of midair past a sprawled Olie Kolzig to put the Hurricanes ahead 4-2. The goal was credited to Brind'Amour, his second of the game.

"I told him next time to maybe use his hand," Kolzig said, referring to Ovechkin. "But he was in a good defensive position trying to prevent a goal."

Ovechkin said: "I tried to knock it high. It happens. It's a hockey game."

After Michael Nylander scored with 4:07 remaining to make it 4-3, the Capitals, who outshot the Hurricanes 34-19, enjoyed a six-on-four for the final 1:33. But they were unable to squeeze the equalizer past Ward.

The defeat was the ninth one-goal loss for the Capitals, who remained mired at the bottom of the league standings with 18 points in 26 games.

It might have gone the other way, however, had Ovechkin and the Capitals received some help from the video replay officials.

The Russian winger had a first-period power-play goal disallowed after it was ruled that he had intentionally kicked the puck into the net with his left skate. Had the goal counted, Washington would have had a 2-1 lead. Then, in the second period, defenseman Mike Green tapped in a rebound, also with the man advantage. But the puck crossed the goal line a split second after time had expired.

"It would have made a difference in the game," Green said. "We kind of have a black cloud over our head."

The team came to Raleigh missing captain Chris Clark (strained groin muscle) and checking-line center Boyd Gordon (undisclosed). Neither traveled with the team for the two-game road trip, which continues Saturday at Florida.

Despite the injuries and scrambled lines, the Capitals got off to a fast start.

Carolina's Scott Walker was assessed a penalty only 2:33 into the game. Two seconds after he took a seat in the box, Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead 1-0 with a blast from the point past Ward. It was Washington's eighth goal against the Hurricanes this season and fifth on the power play.

The play began with Nylander beating Brind'Amour cleanly in the faceoff circle. The puck went right to Ovechkin.

Their lead didn't last long. Cory Stillman evened things at 1 at 9:50 of the opening period thanks to a fortunate bounce. Eric Staal had whacked at a rebound in the crease, sending the puck up in the air and off Stillman's chest. It landed at his skates, and he wasted no time firing past Kolzig.

Carolina's Chad LaRose was awarded a penalty shot late in the first period after being tripped by Ovechkin on a breakaway. But Kolzig was up to the task, turning away LaRose's deke attempt.

In the second period, Carolina got goals from Matt Cullen and Brind'Amour to seize a 3-1 lead. Brind'Amour's goal was reviewed because it initially looked as if he had redirected it past Kolzig with a high stick. The goal was reviewed and allowed to stand, although it appeared the Brind'Amour's stick was above the crossbar.

Ovechkin's second goal got the Capitals within a goal less than a minute into the final frame. The powerful winger carried the puck off the half wall, sidestepped Justin Williams and fired underneath Ward's glove.

Then, with less than a minute to go, he fired from the top of the circle, raised his arms and began to celebrate the tying goal. One problem. The puck was lodged in Ward's pads.

Capitals Note: Alexander Semin appeared to suffer an injury to his left leg after Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg slashed him in the final seconds. The injury was not believed to be serious.

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