- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

There are any number of ways to look at what happened to the Washington Capitals last night, but the quick and easy analysis is that they were manhandled and out-performed in every way by the Boston Bruins.

The 3-2 score might indicate a close, well-played game. It was anything but.

Boston held a 3-0 lead before Washington got a shot past goalie Tim Thomas. That came 39 minutes after the game started, and the shot was just the Caps’ 11th of the game.

Coach Glen Hanlon said it is hardly realistic to expect a team to play at its best every night of the season. But Washington played like a team that had taken a fortnight off rather than a single day as a reward for winning four consecutive games for the first time since December 2002.

On a day when left wing Alex Ovechkin was named NHL offensive player of the week, he didn’t get much help as his eight-game point streak (9-7-16) ended. He was held to two shots, only one in the first 58 minutes, but nearly tied the game on his second shot with just less than two minutes to go. He hit metal and the puck bounced wide.

“We lost this game, now we must forget it and play next game,” the rookie said. “It’s not my day today.”

Backup goalie Brent Johnson was trying to win his third straight to even his record after a brutal start, but he was exposed to everything and anything Boston cared to throw at him. Johnson had started the four-game winning streak Jan. 13 in Anaheim, but he couldn’t make it five without some help. He didn’t get much.

Washington appeared to be a very tired team, beaten to the puck repeatedly by Bruins who had further to go, pushed around in the corners or in front of the nets and moved out of the way with seemingly little effort. It was not the type of performance that earned the Caps four consecutive victories.

“Tonight we didn’t score on the power play,” Hanlon said. “It comes down to specialty teams for us again. … We had some opportunities. We didn’t look crisp, and we were forcing plays through the middle.”

But Hanlon neglected to mention a huge plus for his team. It has killed 16 consecutive penalties — including a pair of two-man disadvantages last night — over the last three games, an enormous rebound from its performance earlier this season.

If Hanlon can get the Caps to perform in the top 10 on either power plays or penalty-killing, it will go a long way toward turning some of the one-goal losses into at least overtime or shootout games, which produce a point in the standings.

Brian Willsie slammed home his ninth goal of the season 18:44 into the second period off a nice feed by Matt Pettinger, and Brooks Laich connected with an off-balance shot for his fifth nearly three minutes into the third. But that was all Washington could muster.

Notes — Ben Walter, a 21-year-old rookie center for Boston, was a healthy scratch last night after playing five games as an injury call-up. He is the son of former Caps great Ryan Walter, now living in Vancouver but working as a broadcaster in Calgary. …

The Caps were down to two injured players at game time, Jamie Heward and Steve Eminger, both defensemen out with lower body injuries. Center Andrew Cassels and center-left wing Colin Forbes were the coaching scratches. …

Washington is at Pittsburgh tomorrow night for Round II of Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby. The short road swing continues Thursday night in Boston, and the Caps will play host to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

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