- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

OTTAWA — The Washington Capitals came to Ottawa with a five-game winless streak, a three-game losing streak and no captain. They left Corel Centre after last night’s 5-1 loss to the powerful Ottawa Senators with all three of those negatives intact.

The six-game winless streak is Washington’s longest since a similar 0-5-1 skid in October 1999 while the four consecutive losses are the Caps’ most since they lost five in a row in March 2000.

The Caps, who traded captain Steve Konowalchuk and a draft pick to Colorado on Wednesday for fellow left wing Bates Battaglia and a prospect, have been outscored 18-5 during the losing streak and 24-10 during the winless skein.

Washington (1-5-1) will try to end both of those droughts tomorrow in Toronto in the last of six straight road games. The Caps and Maple Leafs tied 2-2 last Monday at Air Canada Centre.

“When you’re in a losing streak, you [usually] have to lose a couple of close ones before you get out of it,” Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. “For 40 minutes we outplayed one of the best teams in the NHL, but the guys leave the rink tonight shaking their heads wondering, ‘What kind of team are we?’

“The first period we had point-blank [shots by Sergei] Gonchar, [Robert] Lang and [Jaromir] Jagr — your money guys — and they didn’t score. If they do, it takes a lot of pressure off the [defense]. A team like Ottawa is going to make us look bad after a while if they start playing in our end too much.”

The Caps were tied after the first period — on a power play goal 32 seconds in by Peter Bondra on assists from Gonchar and Lang — for the first time since their season-opening rout of the New York Islanders two weeks earlier and trailed 2-1 after two periods.

But Ottawa, which had gotten earlier goals from Radek Bonk on the power play and Marian Hossa at even strength, broke the game open and sent Washington goalie Olie Kolzig to the bench with three goals on eight shots in the first 6:20 of the third period.

“We had a couple of bad shifts, and they capitalized on that,” said Caps defenseman Brendan Witt, who was on the ice for the first two goals in the flurry. “They’re that kind of team. We played a good 40 minutes, but we’ve got to find a way to put a good 60 minutes together. We’ve got to start winning real bad. It’s becoming desperate.”

Although the offense failed to score more than two goals for the fifth straight game, left wing Kip Miller agreed with Witt that the Caps have to win with defense no matter how inexperienced their blue line corps is.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to win games 2-1 and 3-2 because goals are going to be hard to come by this year,” Miller said of a team with such big-time scorers as Jagr, Bondra, Lang and Gonchar. “Things aren’t working right now. Everybody’s pressing a little bit. For us to get in the playoffs with the hole we’re digging …”

The Senators came out storming in the third period to quickly dig the Caps a hole from which they couldn’t emerge. Martin Havlat fired a shot and when Kolzig gave up the rebound, Bryan Smolinski knocked the puck out of the air with his hand and onto his stick before flipping a backhand into the Washington net at 31 seconds.

“We recognized that being down against Ottawa 3-1 was going to be tough to come back [from], but still we didn’t show a lot of resiliency,” Cassidy lamented.

Not content with a two-goal lead, Ottawa’s Jason Spezza rushed up ice, twisted Washington rookie defenseman Steve Eminger into a pretzel and threw a shot on Kolzig. The goalie again didn’t make a clean save and again paid the price as Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson pounced on the loose puck and made it 4-1 at 2:22.

Zdeno Chara provided the exclamation point with a blast from the left circle that eluded the at least partly screened Kolzig at 6:20. The goalie broke his stick in frustration as the Senators celebrated.

Having given up five goals on 22 shots, Kolzig was relieved by Sebastien Charpentier, who faced 10 shots in the next five minutes as if he was a target in the middle of a pinball machine.

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