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Washington Capitals points streak ends at 15 games with 6-5 loss to Ottawa Senators in Semyon Varlamov's return to the net

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 12, 2010

OTTAWA -- After going the first 58 games of the season without a single hat trick, Alexander Semin notched the Washington Capitals' third in three contests Thursday.

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Semin's epic effort, however, was overshadowed by another lackluster defensive performance that, when combined with a rusty Semyon Varlamov, added up to an unsightly 6-5 defeat at Scotiabank Place.

The loss was the Capitals' second in 48 hours after 14 consecutive victories. But surrendering two points on the road to a hot team was of less consequence to Coach Bruce Boudreau than the sloppy manner in which it occurred. In all, they've yielded 23 goals in the past five games after allowing seven in the five games before that.

"It was an ugly display," a furious Boudreau said. "I thought our defense was horrible and our goaltending was horrible. You're not going to win when you give up six goals and maybe five of them are bad ones and our 'D' can't make a play. It's awful."

Varlamov, who was making his first start in the NHL since Dec. 7 because of groin muscle and knee injuries, gave up a goal to Jason Spezza on the Senators' first shot of the game, and his fortunes improved little. Varlamov faced 28 shots and suffered only his second regulation defeat, while the Senators won for the 13th time in 14 games.

After watching his injury-depleted defense commit egregious turnovers and Varlamov permit routine shots to beat him, Boudreau did not bite his tongue.

"I don't think he was ready to play," Boudreau said of his 21-year-old goalie, who is battling José Theodore and Michal Nuevirth for playing time. "He knew he was going to play. He's had 12 days of practice and a game [in the minor leagues] under his belt. It's his responsibility to be ready."

"When you say, he's rusty, it's an excuse," he added. "And excuses aren't tolerated. The puck's going through his legs? He's been making that save since he was seven years old."

Despite Varlamov's struggles, Semin and the league's most prolific offense almost bailed the Capitals out.

Chris Phillips gave the Senators a 5-4 lead early in the third period when his shot deflected off defenseman John Erskine's stick before eluding Varlamov. The play began with a turnover by Tyler Sloan.

About five minutes later, Alexei Kovalev beat Varlamov between the pads on the power play. It was the 30th-ranked unit's second goal of the game.

Semin made a game of it with 6 minutes 23 seconds left to play when he beat Brian Elliott with a wrist shot to cut the Capitals' deficit to 6-5. But the Russian winger's sublime effort was wasted on a night when his teammates struggled to keep the puck out of their own net.


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