- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

One of Pavel Datsyuk’s goals was a fluke. The rest of his season sure isn’t.

Datsyuk scored twice, including once when his pass was deflected in the net by a defenseman, and had two assists in the Detroit Red Wings’ 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals last night at MCI Center.

“It’s not by accident,” teammate Brett Hull said. “He’s a wonderful, wonderful player.”

Datsyuk, who already has surpassed his career high in goals, got his 16th when Washington’s Jason Doig diverted Datsyuk’s crossing pass into the open side of the net. Datsyuk also assisted on goals by Kris Draper and Brendan Shanahan and drew the assignment of shadowing Jaromir Jagr most of the game.

To cap off the night, the 25-year-old Russian, who was scoring on an NHL-high 28.3 percent of his shots, scored a more conventional goal with a late slap shot, prompting some encouragement from Hull on the bench.

“I told him, ‘Don’t get satisfied. Keep working. You could lead this league in scoring,’” Hull said.

Said Datsyuk, who is tied for the NHL scoring lead with 36 points: “I really appreciate his support. I’m a young player, and I need the help.”

Jagr got around Datsyuk once to score the game’s first goal, but otherwise the Capitals managed only 19 shots in Glen Hanlon’s second game as Washington coach. Despite the margin of defeat, the Caps didn’t sag after falling behind as they had in recent games.

“It’s very tough to come back against Detroit, but it’s going to be a long process. It’s not going to change overnight,” Jagr said. “You can always take positive steps from the loss. Hopefully, we’re going to be OK.”

The Caps won Hanlon’s debut on Thursday, one day after he was promoted from assistant coach following Bruce Cassidy’s firing.

“It was still an enjoyable night,” Hanlon said. “When I took the job, I said everyone’s going to be sick of the word ‘process.’ Even with five minutes to go, I kept trying to tell the players that we’ve got about 150 periods before April comes around, and every single minute counts. Let’s keep proving to everybody what we’re all about.”

The Red Wings have won seven of 10, scoring 46 goals over that span despite the absence of nine injured regulars. Datsyuk, Shanahan, Draper and Hull are among those who have picked up the slack.

Hull had two assists and a very embarrassing moment when he failed to get off a shot on a penalty shot, losing control of the puck as he tried to deke goaltender Olie Kolzig.

“I lost it,” said Hull, 0-for-5 on NHL penalty shots. “I could have dumped it in the stands. He knew what I was doing before I knew what I was doing.”

Hull’s miss in the second period kept the score at 3-1, but Jason Williams made it a three-goal lead for the Red Wings in the third period with his second of the season.

Jagr opened the scoring with a slick approach from the left, skating around Datsyuk and lifting the puck just inside the far post. It was Jagr’s 12th goal, and he has points in 17 of 19 games.

The Red Wings tied it 18 seconds later on Draper’s 13th goal, a drive from the left circle to Kolzig’s stick side. Detroit outshot Washington 12-4 in the first period.

The Red Wings took the lead for good one second after Jagr’s tripping penalty expired in the second period. The puck quickly moved from Hull to Datsyuk to Shanahan for the easy shot.

Notes — The Caps’ last two games have included a penalty shot. Dainius Zubrus scored against Boston on Thursday. … Hull needs one point to reach 1,300 in the NHL. … The game was a sellout, Washington’s first of the season.

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