- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

RALEIGH, N.C. — In 33 home games, the Carolina Hurricanes had lost only five times this season while posting one of the best records in the NHL. Make that six losses.

The Washington Capitals were rewarded last night for another team effort with an improbable 3-1 victory over the Southeast Division leaders, with Alex Ovechkin, Matt Pettinger and Dainius Zubrus providing the goals and Olie Kolzig backstopping the win.

The victory snapped a season-high eight-game losing streak for Washington and staved off possible elimination.

“They worked so hard every night,” a happy coach Glen Hanlon said. “To go eight games without a win is difficult. For them to come out against a team with 46 wins and play that hard and play that well, it’s a testament to the character of the people in the room.”

Two nights earlier, in Tampa, Fla., Hanlon was almost in tears after the game wherein his club played probably even harder but lost 4-3 in overtime.

“Again it was a good effort from everybody,” he said. “I thought our defense on the penalty kill (one goal allowed in eight Carolina attempts) played as well as it has and our decision-making process tonight was as good as it has been.”

With Washington dressing one less forward last night, Hanlon had ample opportunity to double-shift Ovechkin throughout the game. The left wing played with the first line, as usual, and also took the open spot on the fourth line.

Ovechkin wasted no time getting Washington on the scoreboard. The game was less than two minutes old when he took a pass from Brooks Laich, who had picked off a turnover. Ovechkin carried to his favorite spot, the base of the left wing circle and snapped off a wrist shot that goalie Martin Gerber probably will have nightmares about. The puck zipped into the right corner of the cage, the Caps’ opening salvo of the game.

The goal and an assist moved the rookie into sixth place on the Caps’ all-time list of single-season point leaders with 91. He has 12 games left.

Washington had a brief two-man advantage 12 minutes into the first but did not capitalize or even get off a shot while up two men. But five of the Caps’ six shots in the first period were off their three power plays.

The game remained 1-0 until the opening minute of the second period. With defenseman Steve Eminger off for slashing, defenseman Shaone Morrisonn picked off a Carolina pass and threaded it up to Pettinger as the left wing made his way up the right boards. Pettinger picked up the puck and approached Gerber easily, not tipping his hand. He finally took a soft backhanded shot that rose and cleared the goalie’s left shoulder 46 seconds into the period and turned out to be the game-winner.

It was Pettinger’s fifth shorthanded score of the season which moved him into a four-way tie for the league lead. It also left him one short of the Caps’ single-season record for shorthanded goals, shared by Mike Gartner and Peter Bondra.

Rod Brind’Amour scored on a power play early in the third period to break up Kolzig’s bid for his 34th career shutout, narrowing Washington’s lead to a goal. But Dainius Zubrus was credited with his 17th goal of the season at 11:35, also a power play strike, to pad the lead and make things a bit easier for Kolzig, who was in the process of facing 20 third period shots.

The goal tied Zubrus’ career goal-scoring high and gave him 44 points for the season, also matching his previous career high.

Notes — The Caps went with 11 forwards last night instead of the usual 12 and dressed seven defensemen instead of the normal six. The reason, Hanlon said, was to reward the defense which played near the top of its game Thursday night in Tampa, Fla. He also added Bryan Muir to the defensive mix. The defender did not play against the Lightning due to the flu. The healthy scratch was right wing Jakub Klepis. … The team is off today but practices at 10:30 a.m. both tomorrow and Tuesday at Piney Orchard before resuming its season-long seven-game road trip.

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