- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It was a momentous evening on multiple fronts for the Washington Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin became the second player in Caps history to record back-to-back 90-point seasons with the game’s lone goal in the second period and Olie Kolzig stopped 27 shots for his first shutout in more than three seasons as Washington snapped a six-game losing streak with a 1-0 win against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.

“The ice was absolutely horrible out there, and I don’t think either team could really get control of the puck,” Kolzig said. “Pucks were just bouncing everywhere. There were a couple shots in the first period where I just had to play like a shortstop. The bottom line is we got the win.”

Ovechkin joins Dennis Maruk, who accomplished the feat in 1980-81 and 1981-82. Maruk is the only player in team history with three 90-point campaigns. He also pulled it off in the 1978-79 season.

Kolzig collected his 34th career shutout and first since he blanked the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Feb. 15, 2004.

And for a team that had lost 15 of its past 17 games, it was a chance to move past the questions about what happened after the game Saturday night in Tampa, Fla., and still have the opportunity to surpass last season’s point total with two games left.

Brooks Laich, who split top line-center duties with Kris Beech, corralled the puck along the boards to the right of Florida goaltender Craig Anderson after defenseman Milan Jurcina chipped it in. Laich flicked a backhanded pass to Ovechkin, who rifled a one-timer from the slot over Anderson’s right shoulder and under the crossbar for his 44th goal of the season.

“I am happy for him. [Ovechkin] played extremely well,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “With everything going on around here the past couple days with all of the attention that was directed toward him, I thought the response was just terrific.”

Ovechkin thought he had goal No. 45 midway through the third period. He went around Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester with a creative toe drag off Bouwmeester’s skate and then backhanded the puck through Anderson’s legs. The puck glanced off the right post and into the corner, while Ovechkin had already raised his stick in the air to celebrate.

About two minutes later, Ovechkin had another one-on-one situation, this time with Van Ryn. Ovechkin darted toward the middle of the ice instead of his customary rush down the left side. With his back to Anderson, he sent a backhanded shot between his legs that nearly fooled the Panthers netminder.

“I feel media watching me,” Ovechkin joked. “No, I try to score some goals. When you try to score beautiful goals it is good, but goal is goal. When I shot from my back, I just don’t have choice but to do something different.”

Kolzig didn’t face a lot of tough chances in the first 39 minutes, but the Panthers had two golden opportunities in the final 30 seconds of the second period. Bouwmeester’s wrist shot from the left point banged off the inside of the left post and skipped out in front of the net, but no rebound came from the scrum of players in front of Kolzig.

Seconds later Anderson caught the Caps in the midst of a line change and hit David Booth at the Caps blue line for a breakaway, but Kolzig turned his offering aside. Florida had several good chances in the opening minutes of the third period as well, but Kolzig was up to the challenge.

“The third period was a bit of a learning experience,” Laich said. “I think we were a little tentative. It also seemed like we were holding back a little bit — just playing to hold on and not trying to take over the game. Olie kept us in there with some big saves.”

Note — Washington signed Andrew Gordon, the team’s seventh-round choice in the 2004 draft, to a three-year entry level contract yesterday. Gordon, who led St. Cloud State with 22 goals and finished second on the team with 45 points as a junior, will forego his final year of eligibility with the Huskies. Before college, Gordon was a junior teammate of fellow Caps property Andrew Joudrey, who signed with the team last week. Gordon will not join Hershey or South Carolina to finish the season because he has a sprained ankle.

“[Gordon] could be an NHL player within a year,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “He made a good decision to leave, because he is ready to be a pro. He’s got very powerful legs, good hockey sense, he’s very competitive and obviously he is good around the net.”


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