Friday, March 3, 2006

OTTAWA — Five minutes into the game last night, Ottawa defenseman Zdeno Chara bushwhacked Washington wing Alex Ovechkin, sending the rookie tumbling but more importantly, sending a message.

Better get used to seeing me, Chara seemed to be saying, because I’ll be on your case all night.

And he was, and he wasn’t alone. Chara and cohorts hemmed in the Washington offense and ran wild when they had the puck en route to a 7-1 throttling of the Caps in a game that wasn’t even that close.

The lone Washington goal came from Ovechkin, his 38th of the season and third shorthanded, but it came with less than five minutes remaining and after Ottawa had scored its seven goals.

“I like it when somebody hit me,” a smiling Ovechkin said in the otherwise empty Washington dressing room. “It’s like when I hit somebody, I like that. I think the fans like that and it’s fun to watch.”

Washington did not manage many chances against backup Ray Emery, who had 30 saves while playing in place of injured Dominik Hasek.

“We had great chance in second period when [Dainius] Zubrus had a chance to score and then me and [Chris] Clark go 2-on-1 but we didn’t score,” Ovechkin said. “We probably today didn’t play good defensively.”

The Senators burned the Caps with their speed and also had some of the bounces like the ones that went Washington’s way Tuesday night in a victory at Toronto. Ottawa scored goals that starter Olie Kolzig would like to have had a second look at and took advantage of multiple situations in which Caps skaters lagged behind.

“Their speed didn’t catch us off guard,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “This team doesn’t sneak up on anybody. We’re all well aware of their speed and strengths and how well they can play defensively.”

Kolzig got burned 64 seconds into the game when Brendan Witt was unable to slow down Mike Fisher, and the wing lofted a backhander past the goalie, who has lost six straight on the road and will have to wait at least one more game for his 250th career win. Later in the first, Wade Redden took several seconds to get himself set before blasting a shot past Kolzig — and that was the winner with 47 minutes left to play.

Ottawa scored four times in the middle period, two shorthanded and two on a power play, the last one at 11:40 driving Kolzig from the net. That brought on Brent Johnson, who gave up just one goal on 11 shots the rest of the way but didn’t face the intensity Kolzig did. Kolzig made 19 saves on 25 shots.

“In Toronto you could say we created our breaks; tonight you could say Ottawa created theirs,” Hanlon said. “Our major problem was reading the rush. Their defensemen were beating our fourth and fifth guys into the zone all night long. We’ll likely watch this tape … and use it as a teaching tool for our group. They’re a very good team. I don’t think you’ll learn too much from this tape watching our team.”

Notes — Defensemen Ivan Majesky and Mathieu Biron were the healthy scratches for the second game in a row. Defenseman Steve Eminger (sprained ankle) continues to be the only medical scratch but he has been skating regularly for the past few days. He had piercing pain every time he tried to skate for the past few weeks but that has subsided since the equipment staff made subtle changes to the skate on his injured foot. … The Caps left immediately after the game for Atlanta, where they play tomorrow. … Newly elected prime minister Stephen Harper was in the stands for the game, seemingly by himself. It was Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night and the PM was surrounded by service personnel seeking autographs. They got them.

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