By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 5, 2008
Donald Brashear makes a living by throwing haymakers for the Washington Capitals. But even enforcers feel the need to contribute offensively, even if just occasionally.
Brashear's opportunity came early in the third period last night, and the hulking winger made the most of it. He crashed the goal and steered what proved to be the game-winner into the net to help the Capitals snap a two-game losing streak and defeat the New York Islanders, 5-2, at Verizon Center.
"It just bounced there and I went to the goal, and it looked like a big piece of cheese to me," said Brashear, whose tally was his first since March 3. "I was wondering what I could do to [score more]. [General Manager George McPhee] said try to take it to the net and crash there. They could haul you down for a penalty or it's going to bounce your way. Tonight, it bounced to me."
The play began when defenseman Karl Alzner craftily fired the puck off the end boards, knowing full well that the puck would bounce out in front of the Islanders' net and goaltender Joey MacDonald. Brashear, meantime, crashed the net and got just enough of his stick blade to push the puck past the goal line and put the Capitals ahead 3-2 at 6 minutes 50 seconds of the final frame.
Alex Ovechkin and Viktor Kozlov each scored on the power play in the first period, Eric Fehr and Nicklas Backstrom scored late and Brent Johnson made 27 stops as the Capitals improved to 10-1-1 at home this season and atoned for a weak effort in a 5-3 loss to Florida on Tuesday. Washington ended up with a season-high 47 shots on goal.
"There is a lot of pride and character," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It was really uncharacteristic of us the way we played last game. I think the guys were upset at themselves and they came out and proved that it's not the way they are."
The win was also huge because, for the fifth consecutive game, the Capitals were without seven players who were on the opening night roster, including defenseman Mike Green (bruised shoulder), center Sergei Fedorov (sprained ankle) and right wing Alexander Semin (upper torso strain).
They improved to 3-2-0 since the rash of injuries struck thanks to a fast start and strong finish last night in front of an announced crowd of 18,130.
In the first period, Ovechkin beat MacDonald, who has assumed the starting role on Long Island in place of Rick DiPietro (knee surgery), with a wrist shot from the circle on the power play 11:31 in, and Kozlov stretched the lead to 2-0 with a second power-play tally at 13:15 as the Capitals poured it on, out-shooting the Islanders 17-8. (They ended up with three power-play goals, equaling a season high.)
A lull late in the first period and early in the second, however, allowed the Islanders to get right back into the game.
Islanders defenseman Mark Streit scored on a power-play shot from the point with 36 seconds remaining in the opening period.
New York appeared to tie the game early in the second period when Chris Campoli's dump-in hit an official and entered Washington's net, vacated by Johnson as he headed to the boards to intercept the end around. The apparent goal, however, was disallowed because it hit linesman Tony Sericolo's skate.
Asked whether he knew the rule, Boudreau said: "No, not until they told me. I had no clue."
The Islanders pulled even anyway thanks to a fluky play later in the period. Islanders defenseman Andy Sutton jumped out of the penalty box and chased down the puck as it entered Washington's zone. Defenseman Sami Lepisto, tired from a long shift, followed Sutton as he gathered the puck behind the Capitals' goal, but Lepisto fell down, allowing Sutton to make a pass out front. Trent Hunter tapped it in at 13:38 to tie the game.
Brashear, however, untied it with a hard-nosed effort early in the third.
"When we get that [secondary] scoring, and it happens to be the game-winner and it's Donald, who works so hard," Boudreau said. "He doesn't get the minutes that some of the other people get, so it's nice to see him score every once in a while."
Capitals Notes: Ovechkin missed the final seven minutes of the first period after colliding in open ice with Islanders winger Tim Jackman. Ovechkin returned for the start of the second period, finished with a season-high 11 shots and afterward claimed it was a skate issue. . . . Boudreau weighed in on troubled Dallas Stars winger Sean Avery before the game, saying: "I had him for a week. . . . It felt like a year." Avery played under Boudreau for the minor league Manchester Monarchs in 2003.