- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Washington Capitals have been able to get by this season with a limited degree of success by employing a roster that was razor-thin as far as depth was concerned. The Caps, though, are starting to pay the price for being frugal.

The Caps were beaten by the Montreal Canadiens last night 4-1 in a game that seemed winnable. However, Washington played error-prone hockey, which prompted many in the announced crowd of 15,609 to boo loudly and often.

Washington has lost four of its last five games with a roster that includes several players with little experience at the NHL level. The Caps have lost 20 man-games to injury during the last four games, bringing the season total to 76.

There were new lines and defensive pairings to try to plug some of the holes left by five regulars being out of the lineup. That resulted in several missed or errant passes.

“We were kind of lucky in the second to be down only two goals,” Caps center Dainius Zubrus said. “If we play like that, we shouldn’t be expecting to win many games.

“It’s not something they did, it’s something we did. We just got to be better.”

Montreal defenseman Mathieu Dandenault, who returned from an injury, scored on a crossing pattern in front of Caps goalie Olie Kolzig 12-1/2 minutes into the first period. Nearly six minutes later, Canadiens right wing Aaron Downey’s weak shot hit Kolzig, took a bounce and deflected into the net for a 2-0 Montreal advantage.

“I don’t know what it is,” Zubrus said. “[Maybe] not enough traffic [in front of the goalie]. Their goalie [Cristobal Huet] saw most of the shots. In the second period, there were way too many pucks turned over on the blue line.”

Washington’s only goal came with 2:56 left in the third period, when left wing Alexander Semin scooped up his own rebound and put it behind Huet on a two-man advantage. That brought the score to 3-1. Late in the second period Semin had Huet dead-to-rights on a breakaway when a goal would have cut the Montreal lead in half, but Huet stopped the shot.

Notes — Right wing Richard Zednik (groin surgery), left wing Matt Bradley (hand surgery), defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (undisclosed) and defensemen John Erskine and Bryan Muir (both with fractured feet), were medical scratches while rookie right wing Jonas Johansson was a coaching scratch.

Before last night the Canadiens were the only Eastern Conference team the Caps had not faced this season. Montreal comes back to town Jan. 4.

Katie Falkenberg[ThSp]/[ThSp]The Washington Times

Canadiens right wing Aaron Downey (center) put the Capitals in a 2-0 hole with his first-period goal.

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