Senators Top Capitals in OT, 2-1

Brent Johnson, who was making his first start in five games, nearly stole one for the visitors, stopping 42 shots, the most for a Capitals' goalie all season.
Brent Johnson, who was making his first start in five games, nearly stole one for the visitors, stopping 42 shots, the most for a Capitals' goalie all season. (Blair Gable - Reuters)
By Tarik El-bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

OTTAWA, Nov. 4 -- The effort level was higher. The goaltending was better, too.

But even the return of Alex Ovechkin couldn't get the Washington Capitals' offense in gear Tuesday night at Scotiabank Place, where Ottawa center Mike Fisher set up a goal and scored another in overtime to lift the Senators to a 2-1 victory and spoil Brent Johnson's dazzling performance in net.

The points were Fisher's first and second of the season and sent the Capitals to their second straight loss, three days after suffering a 5-0 blowout in Buffalo.

"It was a better effort, a better first period, which is something we wanted to impress," Capitals winger Brooks Laich said. "We had great goaltending from Brent Johnson. But right now we're just not getting the breaks offensively. But you create those breaks."

Johnson, who was making his first start in five games, nearly stole one for the visitors, stopping 42 shots, the most for a Capitals' goalie all season.

But he was helpless on the decisive play in the extra session. Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba earned his 13th assist of the season when he sent a pass to Daniel Alfredsson. The Senators captain, in turn, made a deft touch pass to a cutting Fisher, who fired the puck past Johnson with 40 seconds remaining in overtime.

"We were a half a step behind all the time there" in overtime, Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was a nifty passing play by them, but I don't think we played it very well. You could see it from the bench. When they got to the blueline, we yelled, 'Uh-oh.' "

As Laich said, it probably should have never gotten to that point. Senators goaltender Alex Auld (26 saves) was part of the reason the Capitals had little luck around the net. But a potent offense that has scored four or more goals in six of the team's 11 games appeared out of sync all night. On many occasions, passes were made when perhaps a shot would have been the better choice.

"Sometimes you just have to work hard, go to the net and get your nose dirty," Laich said. "And just get an ugly one. Whatever it is, we have to find it now. We can't keep letting games like this slip away."

The Capitals were counting on getting a boost from the return of Ovechkin, who was back in the lineup after missing two games while visiting his ailing grandfather in Moscow. Last season, the Capitals swept the Senators, going 4-0-0, an effort led by Ovechkin, who scored six goals to go along with four assists in those games.

But Ovechkin did not register a point and still has scored in only one game this season.

"Early on he had lots of good opportunities," Boudreau said. "But at the end of the game, maybe his wind was, I don't know, he didn't have as many chances."

Ovechkin said: "It's nice to be back. But it's done. I'm back with my team. I just have to try to do what I do.

"But right now," he added with a grin, "it's not working."

The first period ended scoreless thanks to a standout performance by Johnson, who stopped 13 shots.

Johnson struggled with the first two shots he faced, but he was nearly unbeatable after that. His best stop came on Alfredsson, who raced in on a breakaway about four minutes into the game. But before the Senators' captain could get off a shot, Johnson lunged forward and poked the puck away.

The Capitals also benefited from a fortunate bounce. Dany Heatley missed an empty net on a Senators' five-on-three power play that came up empty despite a 1 minute 57 second advantage.

At 1:13 of the second period, Heatley stepped out of the penalty box, snagged a heads-up pass from previously pointless Fisher and beat Johnson to put Ottawa ahead 1-0.

But Washington came right back on Tomas Fleischmann's fourth goal of the season. Michael Nylander kept the puck in the zone with a gritty individual effort, and Alexander Semin made a sweet pass to a cutting Fleischmann, who deked a defender then backhanded the puck in the net. The Fleischmann-Nylander-Semin line, in fact, was the only Capitals' combo that was a consistent threat.

But Heatley's goal is all the Senators would get in regulation. Johnson was also the Capitals' best penalty killer, turning back four shots on a four-minute Senators' power play. (Sergei Fedorov was assessed two minutes for hooking, and two minutes for flipping into the netting in protest.)

Despite Johnson's standout performance, Boudreau said he will wait to decide whether to start him again on Thursday against Carolina or turn to José Theodore.

"He's earned another start," Boudreau said of Johnson. "I just don't know when it's going to be."

Capitals Note: Ovechkin, Semin and Mike Green are the team's representatives on the all-star ballot, the league announced. Ovechkin is a candidate for the third time; Semin and Green are on the ballot for the first time. Voting is Nov. 12-Jan. 2.

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