- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Normally when teams return to action after a break, no matter how brief the lapse between games, the initial efforts are dreadful as players try to regain their legs, fluid skating motion and timing.

Last night at MCI Center before an announced crowd of 14,871, the Boston Bruins waited 52 minutes before righting their ship. The Washington Capitals are still waiting for their ship to come in.

Outworked from start to finish, the Caps watched a two-goal, third period lead evaporate in less than a minute and they lost in overtime 4-3 to a team that was even more desperate than the Caps.

Defenseman Brad Stuart fired from the right side of the slot and beat Olie Kolzig at 2:04 of the extra period to thoroughly disappoint the goalie, who played a marvelous game, and prevent the Caps from posting a three-game win streak for the first time this season. The victory was only the sixth for the Bruins in their last 20 games.

Alex Ovechkin had powered the Caps to a 3-1 advantage at 11:47 of the third with a move now closely associated with him. The rookie flew down the left side and unloaded his laser-like wrist shot that darts into the top right corner of the net before goalies can react. Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen was toast and he knew it.

Almost before the holiday crowd could get back in their seats, the lead vanished. Marco Strum lifted a shot over a prone Kolzig 10 seconds after Ovechkin’s goal and Sergei Samsonov deked the goalie out of position 49 seconds later, sending the game to overtime.

Kolzig “was terrific tonight, there’s no doubt about it,” Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. “But when you get enough pucks to the net and traffic in front, you get opportunities, second-chance shots, rebounds. Most of the scoring chances we generated tonight were off those second-chance opportunities.”

And that’s where the Caps lost the game. They were outworked and outhustled, something that is not the norm for Washington but was evident last night from the start. Without Kolzig, the game might have been out of reach in the first period, when Washington was outshot 17-2.

“When you get a two-goal lead in your own building … we didn’t even deserve to be in the game,” center Jeff Halpern said. “Olie played too well and we sold him out the whole game. We were peppering away and then gave up [Boston’s] second goal right after we went up by two. That let them back in the game and killed our momentum and then they scored the third goal on a broken play. It’s unacceptable considering where we are.”

Besides Ovechkin, the Caps got goals from Mathieu Biron, his third in as many games; and Chris Clark, his second shorthanded effort of the season.

Notes — As part of Autism Awareness Night, two teams of developmentally challenged youngsters played between the first and second periods, producing more fan reaction than the two pro teams had up to that point. A silent auction raised $12,874 to fight autism. … The Caps may be in the hunt for a substitute practice facility. The ice making machinery at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton is temporarily out of action, leaving the club homeless until it is fixed. Washington already has used the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. The Caps are scheduled to move into their new $42 million facility in Arlington next September. … Defenseman Nolan Yonkman, for the 11th time in the last 12 games, was the lone healthy scratch. Left wing Jeff Friesen (groin) was the lone medical scratch, but he said he is improving.

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