- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — With about five seconds left, one player from each team lay on the ice with apparent injuries. Medical personnel attended to each.

At one end, Washington Capitals goalie Brent Johnson teed up the puck on the end of his stick and passed it 180 feet to where New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro was idly standing. DiPietro stopped the puck with his stick and passed it back.

The few fans still there applauded. It wasn’t nearly as exciting for the home crowd as the 5-0 walloping the Islanders had just put on the Caps, but it gave them something to yap about en route to the rain-soaked parking lots.

This was not the finish the Caps had pictured. Rookie Alex Ovechkin said the mood before the game was good. There was plenty of energy, and the Caps were ready to play a fellow eliminated team running out the string.

Instead, the Caps failed miserably.

“It was not our night,” coach Glen Hanlon said, refusing to criticize a team that surrendered four power-play goals, tying a season low for futility in that department (against Pittsburgh on Feb. 11) and had only 10 shots in the second and third periods combined.

Against Carolina the previous night, Washington gave up three short-handed scores (two on the same penalty, 19 seconds apart) and also a power play goal. Clearly, either the messages being passed on by the coaching staff all season fell on deaf ears or the proper personnel is not on hand to learn the lessons.

For Ovechkin, it was another night of frustration. He was double teamed at every turn, and the Islanders appeared to anticipate his every move with one of the two players guarding him standing in his path and the other blocking any escape route. He had only three shots, his lowest total in almost a month, all in the first period. He played 19:39, but had only two shifts in the last 10 minutes.

Ovechkin’s 11-game points streak, the longest of his rookie season and a run that produced five goals and 17 points, ended. He is stalled at 48 goals and 99 points. He has not scored a goal in six games, matching his personal high.

It is readily apparent that teams have come up with defenses to thwart Ovechkin, something reasonably easy to do when they have no one close to his talent level to worry about. Almost all energy can be directed at preventing him from connecting while routine play bottles up the rest of the Caps.

Alexei Yashin, who makes $10million a season to produce Ovechkin-like numbers but doesn’t, had two goals and four points last night, which sums up the lack of defense he faced. Why?

“It was a game where we didn’t play very well,” Hanlon said. “We had some penalties we took. … It was 1-0, then it was 3-0 and that was the turning point in the game.”

Notes — Defenseman Bryan Muir returned last night from his off-and-on battle with the flu, but his place was taken by center Brian Sutherby, out with what was described as an upper body injury. Left wing Ben Clymer (lower body) also was out. …

The injury to Sutherby allowed the Caps to retain center Kris Beech, who is with the team from Hershey on emergency recall and must go back when the ailing player he is replacing is ready to return. Last night was just the second game this season Sutherby has missed. Brian Willsie is the only Caps player who has played every one of the team’s 77 games; Ovechkin has missed just one.

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