Caps Are Shaken and Stirred

Brooks Laich
Brooks Laich, back, celebrates after scoring his second goal of the game with teammate Tomas Fleischmann, who assisted on both of Laich's goals. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

With 15 goals in 151 career games coming into the season, Brooks Laich was never considered an offensive threat. That perception, though, is slowly starting to change as the 24-year-old's game evolves.

Last night, Laich enjoyed a career performance at Verizon Center, scoring two goals and notching a pair of assists to help the Capitals cap a hectic day with a 4-1 victory in a rare visit from Marian Gaborik and the Minnesota Wild.

"He's got a little bit of confidence," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Laich, who has four goals in as many games and 13 this season. "One door closes and another door opens. Alex [Ovechkin] hasn't scored in a bit so we need somebody else to score. On good teams, somebody else picks up the slack."

Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer, went a sixth consecutive game without a tally while playing on a line with Nicklas Backstrom -- not to be confused with Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom -- and Alexander Semin.

Which made Laich's contributions all the more important on a night in which Washington didn't gain on the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes, but kept them in sight. Carolina defeated New Jersey in overtime to preserve its five-point cushion in the division race.

Laich opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game, then helped clinch it with Washington' fourth goal late in the second period. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and Eric Fehr also tallied, while Olie Kolzig made 34 saves on an emotional day for the 37-year-old goaltender.

"It's my 17th season and I have been through these before," Kolzig said, referring to the acquisition of goaltender Cristobal Huet from Montreal earlier in the day. "Some trade deadlines I like, and others I don't. But you just keep preparing the same way."

General Manager George McPhee made three deals in an attempt to jump-start his slumping team, which had lost five of its previous six (1-2-3) and was in jeopardy of falling off the pace.

The stunner, though, was the acquisition of Huet for a second-round draft pick in 2009. The addition gives the Capitals three goaltenders -- and Kolzig a lot to prove.

"If it's good enough, I'll play, and if it's not, somebody else will play," Kolzig said.

The arrangement also left Brent Johnson wondering where he fits in.

"I was shocked, because I didn't think it was broken, the goaltending here," Johnson said. "Obviously they felt like they needed something else. As of right now, I'm the man out, it looks like."

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