- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2010

After 20 minutes of play Tuesday night against Ottawa, the Capitals heard some boo birds from the crowd at Verizon Center for the second straight game as they only managed four shots on goal and trailed 3-1.

Unlike Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Calgary, however, the Caps came to life with a pair of goals less than a minute apart in the second period, and then recent callup Mathieu Perreault scored early in the third period to put Washington in front.

But the Senators rallied to force overtime, equalizing the score just a couple of minutes after Perreault’s tally, then took the win in the extra session as Alexei Kovalev tipped a shot past Jose Theodore with just :18.9 left in the extra frame.

The loss is Washington’s third straight defeat (0-1-2), and although the team did pick up its club-record 110th point of the campaign, the team now looks to fix some problematic issues before they spill over into the playoffs.

The Capitals only took 11 shots in nearly 45 minutes of play in the first and third periods as well as overtime, only putting seven shots in the game’s final 24:42 despite the game being tied for a bulk of that stretch. While Washington looked to free some forwards with long passes throughout the evening, the Senators were there to block shots and stifle their chances with some success.

After the game, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau gave credit to Ottawa’s defensive play for limiting Washington’s shots.

“I think it was more their playing good defensively than us playing bad offensively in the first period,” he said afterwards. “We were a little cute once we got inside their zone. They blocked an awful lot of shots tonight. They really protected their goalie well, especially in the first period.”

Alexander Semin scored a pair of goals for the Capitals, while Theodore rebounded from his second straight rough start to make some key stops in the second period, although some bad defense did him in on the final two goals allowed.

Perreault, recalled just two days ago from Washington’s AHL farm club in Hershey, scored his second goal in two games, beating Senators netminder Brian Elliott with a nifty backhand just inside the post to give the Caps the point.

Peter Regin put the Senators on top just 1:24 into the contest, backhanding a shot that eluded Theodore on Ottawa’s first shot of the contest.

Alex Ovechkin helped create a power-play less than 30 seconds after the Regin goal, intercepting a pass deep in the Ottawa zone and forcing Erik Karlsson to trip him on the ensuing break.

With the extra man, the Caps were overly passive at times, but eventually Theodore forced the puck up to Semin, who made a nice move to elude three Ottawa defenders and then spun around and rifled a shot past both Andy Sutton and Elliott to square the score up at 1-1 with just 3:01 elapsed in the contest.

However, Washington gave the Senators the lead right back, as with Matt Bradley in the box for tripping, Jason Spezza tipped a Matt Cullen drive past Theodore — who was impeded as Mike Fisher was pushed into the netminder by Shaone Morrisonn — just 90 seconds after the Caps had tied up the contest.

The Senators increased their lead to two with 3:54 left in the first period, as Chris Campoli took a pass from Daniel Alfredsson and put on a shot that just rolled past Theodore.

Ovechkin had a great chance to cut the lead back to one just over a minute later, taking a floating pass from Semin and breaking in alone on Elliott, but the Senators goaltender was able to snuff out the chances for Washington.

For the second straight game, the Caps were outdone badly by their guests in the first, getting outshot 13-4 and trailing 3-1 — and heard about it with a smattering of boos as they headed to the dressing room.

“For our team to manage only four shots is unacceptable,” Quintin Laing said of the offensive power outage in the first 20 minutes. “We [have] to look back and get some answers and fix it.”

“We weren’t picking up the loose guys in front,” Tom Poti remarked about the defensive side. “None of those goals were [Theodore’s] fault. They were our fault — defensive reads and things like that.

The second period started with a power play for the Capitals, as Karlsson was whistled for boarding Perreault behind the Ottawa net just :36 into the frame.

Washington had some good chances, but couldn’t light the lamp and remained down a pair of goals. After doubling their shot total from the first period in the first five minutes of the second, the Caps got their second power-play of the period, as Nick Foligno was called for hooking Perreault with 5:01 gone in the period.

However, Washington couldn’t connect despite a couple of chances, not registering a shot on goal during the two-minute advantage as a couple of Ovechkin drives went wide of the net.

Semin gave Ottawa its first chance with the power-play in the period with an offensive zone call 8:55 into the second, and Spezza missed a golden chance for a three-goal lead when he couldn’t quite handle a centering feed. Washington had a good shorthanded chance with a 3-on-2, but the Caps couldn’t connect and the score remained 3-1.

However, Ovechkin and Semin connected to cut Ottawa’s lead to just one with 7:56 left in the period, as a long centering feed to Ovechkin went off a skate, the Caps’ captain picked it up and fed Semin, who skated in all alone. Semin took the puck in and put a backhander past Elliot for his second of the night and hist 37th of the season.

Theodore came up big on the next shift, as Alfredsson nearly restored the two-goal lead, but the Caps’ netminder stopped him in front of the cage.

The save proved big, as the Caps evened the score as Mike Green rifled a Tom Poti feed past Elliott just :54 after Semin’s goal, putting the Caps back even despite their slow start and putting the sellout crowd — some of whom had booed the Caps for the second straight game — into a frenzy.

Chris Neil then put Washington on the power-play with 5:32 left in the second, but the Caps couldn’t quite pull even.

Semin had a good chance to try and complete the hat trick in the final minute of the period, but the score was even after 40 minutes, with the Caps ending with 14 shots after 40 minutes for the second straight game.

The Caps jumped in front in the first :24 of the third, as Perreault scored his second goal in many nights, putting a backhander just inside the post for Washington’s first lead of the night.

However it was a short-lived lead, Perreault was whistled for an interference penalty just over three minutes after his goal, and the Sens made the Caps pay, as Spezza converted with the equalizer with 5:13 gone in the third thanks to a bank shot in the net.

Despite registering just five shots on net in the first 19 minutes of the third, Washington did have a pair of chances to take the game in regulation.

Semin nearly put the Caps back in front with five minutes left in regulation, but couldn’t connect. Ovechkin and Mike Knuble had a golden chance just under the four-minute mark with a 2-on-1, but Knuble couldn’t handle Ovechkin’s feed in front of the net and the game remained even through the end of regulation.

Perreault made a bit of amends for his third-period penalty with a nifty move to feed Green the puck with 2:19 to play in overtime, but Elliott came up with the stop to keep play going. Jason Chimera inadvertently created an Ottawa break with a bad pass back to the point, but Theodore came up with the stop.

Ovechkin also had a good chance to deliver the winner in overtime’s final minute, but couldn’t quite get it past the Senators’ netminder. Backstrom was whistled for tripping with just :32.7 left in the extra session, and the Senators took advantage with an Alex Kovalev tipping in the game-winner with :18.9 left for the two points.

“I was going for the puck,” Backstrom said of the penalty. “I thought I touched the puck but it happens and they scored.

The loss brought back comparisons of Sunday’s loss to Calgary — as well as the team’s slow finish to the regular season which carried over into the first four games of the Rangers series which nearly slipped away from Washington.

Boudreau was not as concerned, because of the caliber of team the Caps are playing.

“The difference between last year and this year, is last year we were playing teams that were out of the playoffs, so our level of play came way down,” he said. “I think the teams we’re playing are fighting for something. That was a hard-fought game. That wasn’t a go-through-the-motions type game. … You had two teams wanting it. I don’t think our level of play will be dropping, like it was last year.

The Capitals also lost John Carlson for a bulk of the third period, and Boudreau said he had suffered an “upper-body” injury and could play in the Caps’ next game Thursday if he feels no pain, but with eight defensemen currently up, he may opt to sit him out.

Washington also has six games to try and claim the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy, as they lead the San Jose Sharks by six points with six games left. The Caps would need seven points in their remaining games to assure themselves of the Trophy at season’s end. The team also failed in its third try to claim the 50th win of the campaign, which would tie a franchise record set in 1985-86 and matched by last season’s club.

Washington wraps up its three-game homestand Thursday night when the Atlanta Thrashers come to town. The Thrashers, one of the teams fighting for the final playoff spot in the East — and the right to face the top-seeded Capitals in the first round — are in desperate need of points to try and qualify for the postseason for just the second time in their franchise history. Atlanta trails the three-way tie of Montreal, Philadelphia and Boston by a pair of points in the race for one of the last spots in the east, and also has just five games left to make ground on one of those teams.

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