Huet Shuts Out the Devils In His Debut for the Caps

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 1, 2008

NEWARK, Feb. 29 -- If Cristobal Huet was nervous in net, it never showed.

Huet made the big stops when he needed to Friday night. He steered potentially dangerous rebounds out of harm's way, and he even sent a couple of opponents back to the bench muttering to themselves.

Yes, Huet was that good in his first start for his new team, stopping all 18 shots the New Jersey Devils flung toward him to lift the Washington Capitals to a thorough 4-0 win before 16,580 restless fans at Prudential Center.

It was Washington's first shutout since October and Huet's first since Jan. 29 -- which, coincidentally, came against the Capitals, who picked up the 32-year old at the trade deadline on Tuesday.

"It was an ideal start, I would say," Huet said. "But we can't stop here."

Mike Green and Alexander Semin each scored on the power play for the Capitals, who also got goals from Viktor Kozlov and Donald Brashear. Sergei Fedorov, also making his Washington debut, notched an assist, won 10 of 13 faceoffs and was a dynamic presence on the power play.

The victory was the Capitals' second in a row and gave them 30 wins for the first time since the 2002-03 season. But more important, it pulled them within three points of the Carolina Hurricanes for the Southeast Division lead. Martin Brodeur and New Jersey, meantime, lost for the first time in regulation in 10 games (7-1-2).

"Carolina lose yesterday, and it was good for us," said Alex Ovechkin, who notched an assist. "We use our chance. We must continue [moving] up."

But while the Capitals celebrated Huet's shutout, Ovechkin's goal drought reached a career-long seven games. He still leads the NHL with 48 goals, but has not scored one since Feb. 13 in Atlanta.

"I'm not concerned, but I think he is," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's pressing a little bit. You can tell. He's fanning on a couple of shots. It will come. You can't stop a guy like that forever."

Ovechkin added: "What can I do? I still have chances, I had a breakaway and I didn't score. It happens. I just don't try to think about it."

The victory also was a bit of vindication for Huet, the Montreal Canadiens' No. 1 goaltender for most of the past two seasons before being dealt to Washington for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. Huet, however, won't be in net Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boudreau said Olie Kolzig, the Capitals' unquestioned No. 1 until Huet's arrival, will get the nod.

"Huet made the saves he was supposed to make," Boudreau said. "But I'm going to come back with Olie because Olie was great in the 4-1 win" over Minnesota on Tuesday.

When the Capitals and Devils met on Sunday, Brodeur turned away 37 shots to frustrate the Capitals and carry New Jersey to a 2-1 overtime victory.

This time, it was all Capitals.

After a scoreless first period, Huet stopped Zach Parise on a breakaway with a brilliant pad save. Then moments later, Fedorov made his presence felt.

The 38-year old, who was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a prospect, sent a behind-the-back pass from the boards to Semin, who tapped a pass to Green.

Green, already the NHL's leading scorer among defensemen, increased his total by snapping Semin's dish over Brodeur's shoulder at 11 minutes 27 seconds of the second period. Green's 17th goal of the season gave the Capitals all they would need.

"He brings experience out there with him," Green said of Fedorov. "He's sick. There was one time he was behind the net and I was out in front and he put the puck between his legs out to me. That just doesn't happen."

Earlier in the pivotal second period, Brodeur poke-checked the puck off the stick of Ovechkin as the all-star broke in virtually alone.

Washington won't have long to savor its win over one of the league's hottest teams. The Capitals have another huge contest Saturday against Toronto in which they're expected to receive another boost: Matt Cooke, the third NHL player General Manager George McPhee acquired for his injury-ravaged team, is expected to make his debut, perhaps on the second line with Fedorov and Semin.

"We just want to make the new guys feel good and feel that they are welcome here and they are part of the team," Brashear said. "We need them. We don't have time to waste getting comfortable."

Capitals Notes: Left wing Quintin Laing, defenseman John Erskine and goaltender Brent Johnson were healthy scratches. Johnson did not travel with the team. . . . Right wing Chris Clark (groin tendon) and defenseman Brian Pothier (concussion) remained out.

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