- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Washington Capitals had some trouble getting to the rink last night. Thousands of ecstatic fans were pouring out of MCI Center, still celebrating Georgetown’s victory against top-ranked Duke, at the same time the Caps usually show up for a game.

Several hours later, the scene was repeated, and fans from North Carolina again headed home in an unhappy mood. The Caps roughed up the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2, ending a franchise-best nine-game winning streak by the top team in the NHL.

Washington extended its own winning streak to four games, its longest since December 2002, a modest stretch but one that made the coaching staff happy enough to cancel today’s scheduled practice.

The Caps knocked off the league’s leading team with a thorough team effort. The five goals came from muckers and grinders, not first-line personnel. Olie Kolzig, so sick with the flu he was vomiting between periods, was working on what would have been his 34th career shutout 48 minutes into the game until he was beaten by a well-placed penalty shot by Erik Cole. He has now stopped nine of 11 penalty shots in his career.

Defenseman Brendan Witt hit everything wearing a red and white uniform, leading a physical charge that constantly had the Hurricanes off stride.

Alex Ovechkin did not score, ending his five-game goal streak, but he did assist on a pair of goals to give him an eight-game point streak (nine goals and seven assists).

It wasn’t a victory without blemishes. The Caps took nine penalties and twice were short two men but killed off all nine short-handed situations — a major effort considering a key defensive forward and two top defenders were out with injuries.

“We made it a big point in our meetings that we wanted to come out physical,” Witt said. “They’re the top team in the league, so it was a big test for us and our guys showed up and played an excellent game.”

Witt, not usually one to shy away from a scrap, was confronted by Jesse Boulerice 16 minutes into the second period. Instead of answering the challenge physically, Witt turned turtle and let the right wing get in a few shots. Boulerice was called for a double minor, Witt got nothing and the Caps scored the winning goal.

“If he’s not one of the toughest players in the league, I don’t know who is,” coach Glen Hanlon said of Witt. “Even in the third period I know one of the [Carolina players] was coming to hit him, and he just waited and waited and waited to take the hit and make the play.”

While Witt was dishing out physical punishment, Brian Willsie (eighth), Matt Pettinger (10th), Ben Clymer (eighth and third in three games), Brooks Laich (fourth) and Chris Clark (10th) did the scoring for Washington to back up Kolzig’s effort.

“We were fired up,” center Brian Sutherby said. “They were undefeated in their last [nine], but we’ve been playing well. We wanted to come out and play a big game. It was a good crowd [16,050], and we were fired up, trying to get on the body early.”

Notes — The medical scratches were unchanged from the Caps’ last game: Center Jeff Halpern and defensemen Jamie Heward and Steve Eminger are all out with lower body injuries. Halpern has missed seven of the last nine games and thought he might be ready last night. Heward said he hoped to be ready for Boston, which will be at MCI tomorrow night. Eminger caught his right foot in a rut in Phoenix. He tried unsuccessfully to skate once but was forced to make a quick exit. … The only Washington coaching scratch was veteran center Andrew Cassels, for the 10th time in the last 11 games. … The University Pep Band, in attendance with its instruments, was a welcome distraction.

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