Defenseman Karl Alzner makes his playoff debut for Capitals

Washington squanders a 3-1 series lead and is left with another historic playoff collapse after a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Karl Alzner made his NHL playoff debut with the Washington Capitals in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Montreal at Verizon Center. It was, to say the least, a considerably more substantial engagement than what the defenseman had been used to with the minor league Hershey Bears.

The Capitals called up Alzner after veteran defenseman Tom Poti was hit in the right eye with a puck while on the penalty kill during the second period of a 4-1 loss in Game 6. Poti had surgery on Tuesday, and Coach Bruce Boudreau said he would need at least several weeks to recover.

In his 22nd game and seventh recall with the Capitals this season, Alzner was paired with John Carlson, with whom he shared blue-line duties earlier this season with the American Hockey League-leading Bears. They came onto the ice two minutes in as the third defensive pairing.

Alzner got a first-hand look at Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 41 shots one game after he stopped 53 of 54 shots in the Canadiens' 4-1 victory at Bell Centre on Monday night.

"I don't get that many shots on net, so I don't know what those big guns think about," Alzner said, "but a goalie can steal you a game, and that's a scary thing. Anybody heats up, that's the way it is."

Before Wednesday night, Alzner played in consecutive games on Feb. 11 and 13 against Ottawa and St. Louis. Both were losses on the road, and he did not have a point in either game. Coincidentally, Alzner was called up for those games because of a groin injury to Poti.

Even though Wednesday represented the most significant game of Alzner's brief NHL career, he has weathered plenty of anxious moments in international play, having won consecutive world junior championship gold medals with Canada in 2007 and '08 and serving as captain for the '08 team.

"He's been in an awful lot of big games already in his young life," Boudreau said before the game. "He wants to be in that position because he wants to prove he's an everyday NHL player."

Walker debuts

Scott Walker also made his playoff debut with the Capitals, essentially replacing winger Tomas Fleischmann, who had been mired in a slump for more than a month. Walker skated on the fourth line at left wing with Boyd Gordon at center and Matt Bradley at right wing.

It was the 30th career playoff game for Walker, who joined the Capitals from Carolina this season in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Walker most recently played in 18 playoff games last season with the Hurricanes.

The V.P. and the coach

Vice president Joe Biden attended the game, as did Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

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