- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Anson Carter is making the Washington Capitals feel pretty good about trading away Jaromir Jagr.

Carter assisted on one goal and scored the other as Washington surprised the Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 last night at MCI Center.

“I’m like anyone else. I have a lot of pride,” Carter said. “Just because you get traded for a guy making a lot of money doesn’t mean [the Caps] have to forfeit anything.”

Washington traded Jagr to New York 12 days ago, dumping the bulk of the five-time NHL scoring champion’s $11 million salary on the Rangers.

In return, the Caps got Carter, who has four points and a plus-2 defensive rating in six games. The Caps have a 3-3 record since the trade — including a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden — while the Rangers have gone 2-4 with Jagr, who has five points and a minus-1 rating. Carter also had a breakaway with 3:38 left halted by offsetting penalties.

Caps rookie goalie Maxime Ouellet, who had 38 saves in his sixth career start, came within 7:48 of his second shutout, but Vincent Lecavalier put a rebound of Dan Boyle’s shot off the right post and then Ouellet’s mask and into the net. The lucky bounce didn’t prevent the Caps from ending the Lightning’s six-game winning streak.

Caps coach Glen Hanlon said he wasn’t surprised by the play of Ouellet, who shut out Atlanta in his first Caps start and was solid in a tie the next night at Florida. Neither was Ouellet.

“If I get a chance to play, I try to take advantage of it,” said the 22-year-old Ouellet, who was recalled Sunday from Portland, where he had been sent Jan.6 after allowing 11 goals in his previous two Washington starts. “They got lots of shots, but [most of them] were from the blue line, which are a lot easier for a goalie. I just had to make the first save, and the guys took care of the rebound.”

The Caps (17-30-5-2) remained firmly in the Southeast cellar, but they ran their record to 6-4-1-1 in the past 12 games. Tonight’s date in Philadelphia against the Atlantic Division-leading Flyers is Washington’s last game before the All-Star break. Washington also improved to 8-3-1-1 in division play with 10 such contests among their final 28 games.

Washington’s penalty-killers, shredded for four goals on seven Vancouver power plays on Saturday, got an early chance for redemption after center Dainius Zubrus went off for boarding just 14 seconds into the game. The Caps killed all three of the Lightning’s power plays.

At 5:31, Carter passed along the right boards to Josef Boumedienne, who spotted Halpern all alone in the slot. The goal was Halpern’s 10th and his eighth in 26 games under Hanlon.

Carter made it 2-0 at 10:48 of the second period, completing a dazzling play that began when All-Star center Robert Lang dropped a pass to Steve Eminger. Eminger fed Carter for the point-blank shot that squeezed between goalie Nikolai Khabibulin’s pads.

“I was driving to the net, and I don’t think Khabibulin expected me to shoot a one-timer, and I was able to catch him with a quick shot,” Carter said. “Slowly but surely, Langer, myself and Halpy are getting accustomed to each other.”

A little more than a minute after Lang hit the crossbar from the right post at 13:20, Ouellet robbed Dimitry Afanasenkov from the same spot on the other end of the ice.

The Caps were 15-0 when leading after two periods and 1-30-5-2 when tied or trailing. They went to the dressing room with a 2-0 edge, so the final 20 minutes should have been superfluous. But LeCavalier’s goal changed that, and Ouellet had to stone Martin St. Louis with less than three minutes remaining to keep Washington ahead.

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