By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Three days after Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals in Ottawa, the Senators clamped down on the Washington Capitals' star left wing and held him to two secondary assists.
But they apparently forgot about defenseman Mike Green.
Green notched a pair of goals and an assist, and Viktor Kozlov ended a 23-game goal-scoring drought to help the Capitals overcome an early two-goal deficit and stun the Eastern Conference's best team for the third time this season, 6-3, at Verizon Center.
"I don't know, sometimes throughout the league there are certain teams you play well against," said Green, whose 10 goals are tied with Montreal's Andrei Markov for the league lead among defensemen. "But we have to give ourselves credit. We played 60 minutes, and we got the two points."
Although the Capitals remained in 14th place in the conference after picking up their third victory in four games, they moved within five points of seventh place and six points of idle Carolina for first place in the Southeast Division. Bruce Boudreau, meantime, improved to 10-5-4 since taking over as coach.
But the win might have been costly. Left wing Alexander Semin departed with a tailbone injury after being cross-checked by Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips in the first period, and defenseman Tom Poti departed in the second because of an upper-body injury, leaving Boudreau to juggle a shortened bench.
If Semin or Poti miss a substantial amount of time, it could be a blow to the Capitals, who already are without right wing Chris Clark (strained groin muscle). Semin is the Capitals' second-best offensive weapon behind Ovechkin, and Poti is averaging a team-leading 25 minutes per night. Both will be evaluated again today, General Manager George McPhee said.
"You're always concerned because they are two of the best players you've got," Boudreau said. "Whoever takes their place has to do just as well."
The Senators, meantime, were left suffering from bruised egos. Ottawa Coach John Paddock pulled goalie Martin Gerber after he surrendered three goals on eight shots. He yielded all eight in the Capitals' 8-6 win in Ottawa on Saturday.
"You can tell they feel confident playing us," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "They have nothing to lose."
Yesterday's game picked up where Saturday's left off. A combined six goals were scored in the first period, the first two going to the Senators.
Checking-line forwards Chris Neil and Dean McAmmond each scored on Olie Kolzig (31 saves) after defensive miscues 2 minutes 52 seconds apart.
"We didn't meet their push right away," Boudreau said. "The Kozlov goal gave us such a lift because everybody wanted him to score so badly. It sort of lifted us."
Kozlov tapped in a centering pass from Nicklas Backstrom between Gerber's pads at 5:15 to cut the Capitals' deficit to 2-1. The goal was Kozlov's first since Washington's 4-1 victory in Ottawa on Nov. 8.
"Great pass from Nicklas," Kozlov said. "It's important for me to find my game and keep playing the same way."
Less than two minutes after Kozlov's strike, Michael Nylander pulled the Capitals even when he chipped a rebound over Gerber, who had lost track of the puck after an ordinary wrist shot.
Thirty-five seconds later, Green stickhandled between Alfredsson and Andrej Meszaros and flipped the puck underneath the crossbar to put Washington ahead 3-2 and end Gerber's night.
But the Capitals weren't done. Brooks Laich put them ahead 4-2 at 15:45 when his second whack at a loose puck -- from his knees -- eluded Gerber's replacement, Ray Emery.
Green's second goal came 52 seconds into the second period on a five-on-three power play and put the Capitals in control, 5-2. It was their first goal with a two-man advantage this season.
Meszaros made it a two-goal game early in the third, but Kolzig and an empty-netter by Boyd Gordon wrapped things up.
"We're starting to believe," Kolzig said. "We're a different team than we were six weeks, a month ago. But we got ourselves in such a big hole at the beginning of the season that we're slowly but surely creeping our way back into things."
Capitals Notes: Boudreau said he doesn't expect Clark to travel to Boston or Montreal this week. . . . Left wing Quintin Laing missed his first game because of a bruised leg he suffered blocking a shot on Saturday.