Thursday, April 6, 2006

Alex Ovechkin moved two points closer to the magical 100 in a season last night, a feat that would bring a smile to most athletes. But the rookie left wing wasn’t smiling after the game, and it was quickly apparent why.

“We not win game,” he said, shrugging his shoulders after his Washington Capitals had lost 4-3 in a shootout to visiting Carolina, a shootout in which he had failed to score.

Hurricanes center Matt Cullen was the only player to score during the tiebreaking procedure, and that was the difference.

The win tied the five-game “miniseries” between the two teams at 2-2, with Carolina winning the last two, both in overtime. The match game is tomorrow night at Verizon Center.

Ovechkin had an assist on two of the three Washington goals to give him 50 on the season. He also has 48 goals, adding up to 98 points in his rookie season. The two points allowed him to jump to third place on the Caps’ single-season points list, bumping Dennis Maruk and his 97 points down to fourth.

Ovechkin also extended his personal points streak record to 10 games with five goals and 11 assists. The club record is 17 games, set twice by Mike Gartner.

Dainius Zubrus had two of Washington’s three goals to push his career high to 21. The ninth-year forward was awarded one of the goals after the game, when it was determined through officials’ replay that Brian Willsie, who originally was credited with the score, hadn’t touched the puck.

The game had ebbs and flows, with Carolina dominating for a while and then Washington. The Hurricanes blew out to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes before the Caps tied the score within a one-minute span during the second period. Each team scored once in the third on the power play.

“It’s good to come back against a good team,” Ovechkin said. “It would have been great to have won, but [goalie Brent Johnson] kept us in first half of game. And we had a big goal from [Jeff Halpern] that got us going, and we tied it up. They are good team, and hopefully [tomorrow] we play the same way we play second half of game and we will be all right.”

Halpern was credited with the Caps’ first goal, and he has the bruise to prove it. Defenseman Jamie Heward fired from the right point at the 7:30 mark of the second, and the puck disappeared into a crowd in front of the net. Although cameras did not pick it up, the puck nailed Halpern on one of his ankles and glanced past Martin Gerber.

Zubrus scored the first of his two goals 49 seconds later, with Ovechkin assisting. Ovechkin also got an assist on Zubrus’ second goal, which gave the Caps the lead in the third period.

“That’s the hump, the one-goal games that we have lost all year, the overtime games that we have lost all year,” Halpern said. “I think we’ve done good things at times just finding ways to win. Good teams find a way to win, and we are close. It’s not quite there.”

Notes — Retired Caps star Calle Johansson, his wife and three daughters attended the game. He is now a commentator on Swedish TV. Fame doesn’t last long: The center ice scoreboard misspelled his name. … Mike Green, taken 29th overall by the Caps in 2004, was named to the American Hockey League all-rookie team. … The Caps recalled three forwards from Hershey for the game. Kris Beech, Eric Fehr and Louis Robitaille all played against Carolina. Fehr was a regular call-up, meaning the Caps have used half of their four allowed recalls; the others were emergency recalls. Defenseman Bryan Muir (lingering flu) and left wings Matt Pettinger (upper body) and Ben Clymer (upper body) missed the game.

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