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Up by Two, Capitals Settle for One Point

Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin has gone three games without recording a point and missed his chance in the shootout. (Kevin Lamarque - Reuters)

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alexander Semin put the Washington Capitals ahead less than three minutes in, and Brooks Laich stretched the lead to two goals before the opening period was over.

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But instead of finishing off Rick DiPietro and the injury-depleted New York Islanders, the Capitals, as they have so often this season, let up.

The Islanders forced the game into overtime, and Mike Comrie completed the comeback in the shootout, beating Olie Kolzig with a backhander between the pads to hand the Capitals their third defeat in four games, 3-2, last night at Verizon Center.

"I think it's a lack of killer instinct," Laich said. "When we do have a lead, the old cliche is 'step on the throat.' We sit back a little bit more, or we try to get fancy. But we just need to play our same game and stay aggressive."

Comrie scored the only goal of the shootout to clinch the Islanders' fifth straight victory. Washington, meantime, dropped to 2-4 in games decided by penalty shots and remained two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the Southeast Division lead.

It didn't help the Capitals that Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer, hit the post or crossbar four times, including in the shootout. He now has gone without a point in three consecutive games, his longest drought since last March.

"Career high," Ovechkin said of finding the iron so often. "Today was bad day for our forwards. We don't score goals, we have lots of chances, hit posts. We can play better."

Handing back a 2-0 lead for the second straight game wasn't the only concerning development for the Capitals. The team lost defenseman Jeff Schultz for an unspecified amount of time because of a strained left knee. He was hurt when he landed awkwardly on top of an Islander midway through the first period. It's doubtful that Schultz will be available for this weekend's games against the Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils.

The injury left the Capitals with five defensemen and forced Mike Green (33 minutes 59 seconds of ice time) and Shaone Morrisonn (28:10) to carry the load on the blueline. Tom Poti, in his first game back from bruised thigh, skated 24:06.

"Some guys are playing 27, 30 minutes and that's too much to play," Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Although the Capitals did not recall a player from the minor leagues after the game, it's possible that they might bring back prospect Sami Lepisto, who made his NHL debut Saturday night before being returned to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League yesterday morning.

In the meantime, the Capitals were left to ponder a point that had gotten away.


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