- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

The numbers don’t lie.

After beating the Washington Capitals 5-2 at Verizon Center yesterday, the Ottawa Senators improved to 38-0 this season when scoring four or more goals. The Caps, meanwhile, have scored four or more goals in only 18 games, and it hasn’t guaranteed them a win.

That pretty much explains how far the Caps have to go to be where the Senators are — first place in the NHL based on tiebreakers more than three-fourths into the season. It’s no surprise Jeff Halpern said the Senators are among the best teams the Caps have played this season.

“I don’t know how they match up against Detroit and Carolina. They might match up differently than we do,” he said. “But I know we have the hardest time with [Ottawa].”

Coach Glen Hanlon agrees.

“When you play teams where they are in the standings … there’s not many weaknesses that you would not think they would not be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup,” he said. “They had two power-play goals against [us]. We had a couple chances early. … Their goalie [Ray Emery] made a couple big saves, and they don’t even have [Dominik] Hasek in goal.”

It was a case of an inexperienced team being schooled by an experienced, extremely well-drilled club, and experience and discipline wins every time.

“I thought we worked hard, [but] everything has to go our way,” Halpern said.

A lot of things didn’t go Washington’s way, mostly because Ottawa worked even harder to prevent that from happening. There were times when the Caps appeared to be going through the motions.

Ottawa scored 4:54 into the game when Olie Kolzig made a save with his body but could not grab the loose puck before Patrick Eaves hammered it in. Less than 10 minutes later, Ottawa’s Wade Redden fired through a crowd to make it 2-0, though Caps forward Chris Clark got one back with his 14th of the season, finding the empty right side of the net.

The defensive breakdowns that marked the game became apparent in the second period, especially when Jason Spezza got behind the Caps’ defense, took a two-line pass from Dany Heatley and beat Kolzig on a breakaway for a 3-1 lead. Washington defenseman Jamie Heward scored 8:56 into the third for the last Caps goal.

Rookie sensation Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless for the second straight game but did rouse the crowd 8:45 into the third when his heavy check sent 6-foot-9, 265-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara crashing to the ice, a maneuver that set up Heward’s goal.

Halpern, who has a long history of mediation over fisticuffs, was involved in his seventh NHL bout yesterday, going toe-to-toe with Mike Fisher midway in the second period. His last fight was against Bobby Holik on Jan. 26, 2003, when the feisty forward was with the Rangers. Halpern’s first NHL bout was in his rookie season when he took on Vincent Lecavalier of Tampa Bay and got schooled.

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