Hurricanes 4, Capitals 0

Olie Kolzig, once again, did all he could to keep the puck out of the Washington Capitals' net. And, once again, his penalty-prone teammates failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

The Capitals faced 12 Carolina power-play opportunities, and the Hurricanes scored on three of them last night at MCI Center, where the visiting Southeast Division rival handed Washington its first shutout loss of the young season, 4-0.

Kolzig made no less than a dozen eye-popping stops, but the rest of the time he looked like the target in a shooting gallery, as his teammates seemingly formed a single-file line to the penalty box.

"We got into penalty trouble, and it kind of became a snowball effect," Kolzig said. "It's a never-ending process. We allowed them too many easy chances. It seems like we say it after every game: 'We have to eliminate the penalties.' We have to get it sooner or later, or it's going to be a really long season."

Carolina outshot Washington, 41-18, marking the ninth time in nine games this season the Capitals have logged fewer shots than their opponent. The Hurricanes' 24 shots in the second period equaled a franchise road record.

The Capitals entered the game yielding a league-worst 40.5 shots per contest. Last night's ignominy came 48 hours after the Panthers hurled 28 shots at Kolzig in the second period, a franchise record for Florida.

"Eliminating the penalties is a big concern for us right now," said defenseman Steve Eminger, who was whistled three times for minor infractions. "The adjustment period is over with. We all know what's going to be called."

Rookie Alex Ovechkin, meantime, saw his point streak end. The left wing had recorded at least one point in each of the Capitals' first eight games, a franchise record and the standard for No. 1 overall picks. He had two shots on the night.

"It doesn't matter if I score or assist," Ovechkin said. "We lose game. That's it."

Coach Glen Hanlon had hoped to spark his team by making some tweaks to the lineup. The biggest change Hanlon made was to Ovechkin's line, where Dainius Zubrus replaced Jeff Halpern at center. Halpern, meantime, skated between Jeff Friesen and Chris Clark.

None of it worked. Even when the Capitals were at full strength, they generated little sustained pressure in the offensive zone. After the game, the players closed the locker room door and addressed their ills amongst themselves for the second time this season.

The penalties "totally take you out of the game," Hanlon said. "It's the story of the game."

Although there was no scoring in the first period, there was a little bit of almost everything else, including: a 17-minute stoppage caused by a problem with the boards, a goalie change by the Hurricanes before there had been a score, a Carolina goal that went in off the hip of Cory Stillman then was nullified because the Hurricanes had six skaters on the ice. The weirdness ended with the Capitals taking three minor penalties within 1 minute 58 seconds of one another.

In the second period, the shots started coming faster and more furious. Stillman and Rod Brind'Amour scored with the man advantage to make it 3-0 at the end of two periods. Matt Cullen had scored at even strength in between. Carolina goalie Martin Gerber replaced Cam Ward early in the first period after Ward suffered an arm injury.

Ray Whitney, in his first action of the season, tallied a power-play goal early in the third to clinch it for the Hurricanes.

Capitals Notes: Defenseman Nolan Yonkman was reassigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint after playing only six minutes, on average, in the three games in which he dressed. . . . The crowd was announced at 13,374, but there appeared to be significantly fewer in the building.

Washington's Matt Pettinger collides with Carolina's Mike Commodore during the second period at MCI Center.