Capitals vs. Senators: Washington rallies to snap three-game skid

Brooks Laich got the Capitals scoring started in the third period. It was his first goal since Dec. 15.
Brooks Laich got the Capitals scoring started in the third period. It was his first goal since Dec. 15. (Toni L. Sandys/the Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 17, 2011; 12:47 AM

Through 40 minutes, the Washington Capitals couldn't get much of anything going against the Ottawa Senators in what began as a sleepy Sunday matinee meeting at Verizon Center. They trailed by one in the second intermission, when Coach Bruce Boudreau made it clear how crucial the third period would be in giving Washington some momentum heading into a week on the road.

The Capitals responded to the tune of three goals in the span of 6 minutes 16 seconds to snap their three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win against woeful Ottawa, which has lost eight of nine contests. It's the second time this season that Washington used the struggling Senators to snap itself back into place, the first time coming on Dec. 19 in a 3-2 win that ended an eight-game skid.

"Bruce addressed it in the second intermission - that this was a big period, a big game for our season," said Brooks Laich, who notched his first goal since Dec. 15. "We have 10 of the next [15] on the road and you have to have this one moving on. If we don't win it now, we're looking at losing four in a row and going on the road for three games in the next week. So a good response by our guys in the third period, and I think a well-deserved win."

Washington began the third with a second set of rearranged forward lines as Boudreau continued to search for anything that could jump-start his team's dormant offense. On his third shift of the period playing alongside Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, Laich benefited from his linemates' forechecking in the corners.

Ovechkin led the rush and finished his check in the corner. The Senators gained control but rushed a pass and the puck bounced straight to Laich for a snap shot that sailed over goaltender Brian Elliott's shoulder to tie the game at 1.

"Ottawa was tremendous through two periods, not allowing hardly anything, and they played really good," Boudreau said. "But perseverance, you keep doing the same thing over and over and eventually we broke through. Sometimes you get frustrated and try something different just because something didn't work, even though you did it right."

Ottawa's Milan Michalek was penalized for cross-checking Karl Alzner and causing the Capitals defenseman to fall into the boards headfirst, leading to Washington's first power-play goal after 11 consecutive failed attempts. Alzner returned to the game and said he was fine.

Nicklas Backstrom won the opening faceoff on the man advantage and drew the puck back to John Carlson, who blasted a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle for a second goal in 45 seconds and a 2-1 Capitals lead. Washington added to its energy and, from all appearances, confidence as it rolled through the third period.

Jason Chimera added the final cushion, his first goal since Dec. 21, when he banked the puck off Elliott's upper back and into the net from the goal line to make it 3-1.

"We're tied for first [in the Southeast Division] now," Chimera said. "It seems like we've been in last place in the conference just because everyone expects so much for us, and it's nice to get it done."

For 40 minutes, Washington and Ottawa seemed to trudge through the game. The Capitals couldn't get many chances in the offensive zone - a far too familiar trend - and some of their best opportunities resulted in shots that sailed wide of the net. Elliott, who finished with 23 saves, didn't need to make many astounding stops in the first 17 he faced through two periods.

Meanwhile, Ottawa took a lead 1:39 into the contest when Mike Fisher knocked the puck into the net past Michal Neuvirth, who couldn't secure it in the crease. Neuvirth rallied after that early goal, though, and held his ground until the Capitals were able to get some offense going. He finished with 22 saves and improved to 15-6-4 on the season, a record that includes three wins against the Senators.

"He was great," Boudreau said of Neuvirth. "I knew he'd be real good tonight. He's been waiting, he's beaten Ottawa three times now [and] feels good against them. It's a great little battle between the goalies - they both want to be number one. When they get the chance to get in, they make the most of it."

Capitals note: Alexander Semin, who is out with an undisclosed lower-body injury, was placed on injured reserve Sunday. The right wing has missed four games since absorbing a hip-to-thigh hit in the third period of a Jan. 8 contest against the Florida Panthers. He is eligible to return at any time, as it has been more than a week since his most recent appearance.

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