- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

The Washington Capitals took a franchise-record 55 shots on goal last night — and lost.

The Caps can credit the 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers at MCI Center partly to the play of Roberto Luongo, a goaltender on top of his game who turned aside 53 of those shots and further buried Washington in the Eastern Conference cellar. But Luongo was helped by the Caps, who repeatedly failed to finish off chances close to the net.

“At the end of the day, we had ample opportunities to win the hockey game,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “We had enough shots and enough chances. The puck was with the right people at the right time, and we just couldn’t score the tying goal.”

Against a team that began the night with a 13-game road losing streak — the Panthers last won away from home Oct. 25 before last night — Washington also was its own worst enemy when it came to the power play. Again, it had a lengthy two-man advantage — this one for 1:48 — but managed only three shots on Luongo. The Caps were scoreless on six power plays after going 0-for-5 Friday night in San Jose.

“He was unbelievable,” said Caps center Brian Sutherby, who scored his seventh goal of the season late in the third period to cut the margin to one. “When you get 55, 56 shots, you hope to win games, and it’s frustrating. It’s a game that I think we should have won.”

Washington had 19 shots in the first period and 18 in each of the last two but could get through only on Sutherby’s blast in the third and a short-handed score by Chris Clark in the first.

Olie Kolzig was not at his best, but it was hard to fault him for the outcome. Two goals, both Florida power-play strikes, came off pucks that were tipped in front when Panthers were not taken out of the play, while the winner came as a direct result of a sloppy clearing attempt that was easily intercepted and returned.

“Maybe we put a little more pressure on ourselves tonight to get that win, and what do you do? We throw 55 [shots] at him,” Caps defenseman Jamie Heward said. “We just didn’t get that one little bounce that maybe we deserved for our hard work. That’s just the way the hockey game works.”

Incredibly, it was not even the most shots Luongo, a leading candidate for the Canadian Olympic team, has faced in his NHL career. In February 2002, he was in goal for 60 shots against Detroit, and it took a Brett Hull goal in overtime to beat him 3-2.

The game was played in an eerily silent MCI Center, where attendance was announced as 10,829 — a fraction of which was actually present. One of the biggest cheers of the night came when the final score of the Redskins’ 35-7 win over the Cowboys was announced.

Notes — Right wing Stephen Peat, who was sent to Hershey on Dec. 6 for conditioning, cleared waivers Saturday and has been assigned to the American Hockey League team. Peat, who played less than five minutes before being sidelined with a broken hand, is an enforcer — a role that has all but been abolished by the new league rules. … Right wing Eric Fehr made his NHL debut but was reassigned to Hershey right after the game. … Left wing Jeff Friesen (groin) was the lone health scratch for the Caps. Defensemen Mathieu Biron and Nolan Yonkman were the healthy scratches. … Caps assistant trainer Chris Phillips was there for his 1,000th NHL game.

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